Continuing on with Will Smith Week, here’s a true story from my youth about how his music was a defining factor in my artistic development. Enjoy!
So you’re all familiar with Will Smith’s (nee the “Fresh Prince’s”) breakthrough hit song, “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, are you not? Here’s a link, if you need a refresher.
For some reason, the first time I heard this song, I thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. I was probably 12? Maybe 13 years old? That might explain it.
For some reason, around that age, I thought it was “rad” or “keen” to play songs like this for adults who were visiting my parents. I famously alienated my aunt’s best friend by playing “One In A Million” by Guns N Roses for her, but that was a little later. Consider this a warmup.
Now, you would think that a novelty joke song by the whitest black rapper the world has ever seen wouldn’t offend anybody, but you would be wrong.
My mother’s best friend was over at our house and I thought it would “23 skidoo” to play this new Fresh Prince song for her on my audio cassette boom box.
What was the reaction I was going for? I’m not really sure. I don’t remember. I think it was something like, “Oh look at how out-of-touch these adults are and not at all cool like me because I listen to the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff” (or as my mom once called him “Jeff the Jazz”).
Did I mention I’m white and from Connecticut? That might help.
Anyway, to my surprise, this 40 year old woman friend of our family was not offended by the first half of the song, the one dealing with the shopping trip to the mall where mom buys all the outdated clothes. On the contrary, she found it amusing and charming!
I was about to hit the stop button on my boombox when the second verse came up, the one where the Fresh Prince steals his mother’s expensive German sports car and gets arrested for going 90 mph while in the process of having sex with a 12 year old runaway girl, portrayed in the video by a 33 year old woman.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: that actually does sound pretty bad. But c’mon! This was Will Smith. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It’s a joke song.
Well, this woman didn’t see it that way. It was one of those times when someone’s face changes from warm, inviting, even jovial to straight-up pissed off in about 3 seconds.
“I don’t find that very funny at all. I think that’s an awful message to send to children.”
I think at this point I retreated from the kitchen with my boombox while my mom got chewed out for her lapse in judgment.
I went up to my room, confused. It didn’t seem fair. I guess the Fresh Prince was right: parents (or adults in general) just don’t understand. So we need to make them understand.
I discreetly fished out the Polaroid camera my family kept around for vacation photos and snapped off some pictures in my room. Then I snuck down to the friend’s car and hid them in the glove box.
As she was outside, saying her goodbyes to my parents, I made a tearful phone call to the police, telling them how this woman had sexually abused me, in graphic detail. Why, she even kept some photographic evidence of said heinous deeds in her car’s glove compartment, Officer!
Oh sure, eventually they figured out she was innocent, but not before she lost her job and I got yet another free Disney World vacation out of my family!