Will Smith was frequently called “soft” by his peers in hip-hop because he didn’t use profanity in his music.
Will Smith recently appeared on Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. The interview was filmed prior to the Oscars, so there aren’t any noteworthy bits about that incident, but Will got honest about his family life, childhood, and more. When Dave brought up Smith’s career in music, he also noted that he and DJ Jazzy Jeff had created a lane for themselves by using humor.
“That was really our major distinguishing quality at the time,” Smith said. “It was comedy, it was punchlines, it was fun. We stood out in a really good way.”
Letterman then inquired about whether Smith wanted to “move out” of that artistic space due to pressure from the music industry. Smith then reflected on being described as “soft” because he didn’t use profanity in his lyrics, a decision he made after a request from his grandmother.
“Not pressure as much as it was always that I was ‘soft,’” Smith said. “Dave, I hated that, being called soft. The origin of my style and why I pursued it in that way [is] when I was about 12, my grandmother, she found my first rap book,” he continued. He explained that the rap book was filled with curse words and his grandmother left him a note asking him to omit those specific words while praising his talents.
“My grandmother found my rap book and wrote a letter in [the] front of my book and said, ‘Dear Willard, truly intelligent people do not have to use words like these to express themselves. Please show the world that you’re as smart as we think you are. Love, Gigi.’ And that was the reason I never cursed in any of my records,” he added.
The full episode is currently on Netflix.