Will Smith, byname of Willard Carroll Smith, Jr., (born September 25, 1968, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.), American actor and musician whose charisma, clean-cut good looks, and quick wit helped him transition from rap music to a successful career in acting.
Smith was given the nickname “Prince Charming” in high school, which he adapted to “Fresh Prince” in order to reflect a more hip-hop sound when he began his musical career. He formed an alliance with schoolmate and deejay Jeffrey Townes, whom he met in 1981. They began recording as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and released their first single, “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble,” in 1986, later followed by the album Rock the House. In 1988 the group released the groundbreaking single “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” which went on to win a Grammy Award (the first Grammy ever presented in the rap performance category).
Smith’s act, notable for its wide crossover appeal, was sometimes characterized as “light rap” because of the lack of hard-core lyrics and themes in his compositions. Platinum-certified recordings and accompanying videos subsequently brought him to the attention of television producers. The television sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which began in 1990 and was loosely based on Smith’s real-life persona, ran on NBC for six successful seasons, ending at the star’s request. During the series’ run, Smith garnered two Golden Globe Award nominations and served as an executive producer for the final season.