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May 12

JAZZYJEFF AND THE FRESH PRINCE – “Boom! Shake The Room”

Popular52 comments • 4,142 views

#695, 25th September 1993

At this point, what differentiates the hip-hop that tops the UK charts from the stuff which peeks in lower down is legibility: not too much slang, metaphors spelled out, a flow any kid could follow. At a time when the public face of rap in Britain was Snoop Dogg on the front page of the Daily Star – “KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUT!” – the material crossing over commercially wasn’t likely to cause any moral panics. So the “harder edge” promised by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince on their final album, Code Red, was highly relative.

Of course it’s easy to look at the glories of hip-hop in 1993 and draw harsh comparisons with “Boom! Shake The Room”. In the USA, the radio-driven singles chart trailed the Billboard albums list, where Snoop’s Doggystyle and Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday both went to number one. But Will Smith was playing a different game in any case, and as pop-rap “Boom!” is a roaring success. The bits that don’t work – “Many have died trying to stop my show”, oh really – are hugely outnumbered by the bits that somehow do: the patiently explained football metaphor (“in response to the way that I was kicking it”), the Jekyll/Hyde stuff, the stutter-rapping, and tying it all up Smith’s bustling enthusiasm.

The Fresh Prince’s style is not world-beating, and his lines aren’t startling. But as a training level tutporial for what rap does – still needed even at this point – “Boom! Shake The Room” is a lot better than “Ice Ice Baby” or the Turtles ever were. Not just the MCing, either: that squiggle of turntable garnish on a big walloping break is more important to the song’s charm than anything Smith does. Anyone with the slightest sympathy for it then probably has a massive personal fondness for “Boom!” now. I certainly do.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    rabbitfun on 15 May 2012 #

    #24, oops… better not get into that before it’s due, sorry for teasing… ;-)

  2. 27
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 May 2012 #

    He’s a terrific comedy actor in eg MIB1 and 2 (I know everyone except me hates MIB2 but Smith is nevertheless excellent in it). Too much of his “serious” material undersells him badly (I am Legend, I am Robot, I am Independence Day)

    What’s he like in I am Ali?

  3. 28
    thefatgit on 15 May 2012 #

    Smith was slightly better in Ali (he worked out for the role and bulked up accordingly) than he was in I am Happyness.

  4. 29
    thefatgit on 15 May 2012 #

    ^^ fnur, fnur.

  5. 30
    swanstep on 15 May 2012 #

    @27, mark. I haven’t seen Ali either (which probably should have have given me pause before posting my mild jibe).

    Checking Smith’s IMDb page now his ‘In pre-production’ films include I, Robot 2, Bad Boys 3, and Hancock 2. Smith could get any script made that he wants, with any director he wants…

  6. 31
    thefatgit on 15 May 2012 #

    One thing that may work in “actor” Will Smith’s favour is his physicality. His origin as a Hype Man in Philly, whipping up a crowd, and FPoBA was filmed in front of a studio audience, as close to theatre as you get in downtown Burbank. That kind of stagecraft lends itself easily (ie. knowing where your audience/camera is, using the space you have to full effect) to the requisite greenscreen work in CGI-heavy films that Smith is very familiar with. Probably why directors like him.

  7. 32
    Another Pete on 15 May 2012 #

    Never really realised it at the time but Boom Shake the room is essentially a reworking of Kris Kross’ ‘Jump’ from a year earlier. Just replacing the backwards jeans gimmick with a star of a popular TV show.

  8. 33
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 May 2012 #

    Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were multi-platinum rappers before Will Smith was on TV (in fact he was in a TV show because he was a multi-platinum rapper). So it’s a bit weird to suggest that being on TV is his gimmick: being a rapper is his actual gimmick.

    (Jump is also built round a Funky Worm sample, which is why the songs sound similar.)

  9. 34
    lonepilgrim on 15 May 2012 #

    This is the final track (chronologically) on the ‘Number 1s of Dance’ CD I mentioned back in the Gabrielle/Dreams thread. It’s lively, cheerful and unthreatening. There’s a compelling flow to the lyrics with a lot of percussive words and phrases that match the BOOM – BOOM of the title. I like the needling, whiny synth motif as well. A well deserved 7 for me.

  10. 35
    Richard on 15 May 2012 #

    The first actual single I ever bought! (I already had a couple of albums (on cassette), both similarly pop-rap) Very fond memories obv.

  11. 36
    Russ L on 15 May 2012 #

    I loved this when I was eleven and I love it now. There’s such a sheer feeling of energy steaming off of the thing, I find.

  12. 37
    Another Pete on 15 May 2012 #

    #33 I meant Kris Kross in regards to the gimmick not Will Smith. You’ve got to admit both songs share more elements than an Ohio Players sample.

  13. 38
    anto on 15 May 2012 #

    No fondness at all. I just can’t bear Will Smith. It would have been around this time his naff sitcom would have been turning Monday teatimes into an ordeal. Few shows have featured a studio audience so over-excited by so very little and at least on Ricki Lake you could see their faces.

  14. 39
    Mark M on 15 May 2012 #

    Re 27: He’s not bad in Ali, which is also not a bad movie, although I remember it being fairly/radically unfocussed. But he really has taken the easy options since…

    I’ve never really taken to him as a rapper – he’s competent without actually being good, and his charm is so forced.

  15. 40
    ciaran on 15 May 2012 #

    The 7 is spot on here.

    I was a bit annoyed at first by the Will Smith juggernaut in the early 90s.Will Smith in a way was as big a movement as grunge in the early 1990s.Almost New Romantic like in terms of popularity.

    The FPoBA was something I never got into much when it first started.Its black centric plot was a bit too heavy for someone like me.Shows like Saved by The Bell and Pugwall were easier to follow.It was only when Trouble (Formerly TCC) repeated FPoBA in 1998 that I realised I had got it wrong.Jazz/Phil, stuck up Hilary, Tom Jones obsessive Carlton.quite good for the first 3 seasons or so but spoiled by one too many fat jokes and the premise running thin as smith was nearly in his 30s in real life playing a role not a million miles off his origins of high school undergraduate.

    A crucial element to Smiths success is of Basketballs promotion around the same time, which came after the American Football craze of the 80s.Smith himself was the star player for his school in the first season of the show.Factor in the dazzling Dream Team in the Olympic Games the year before along with the sublime NBA Jam on the super Nintendo making its way to most homes.BSTR was an obvious record to take advantage of this.

    Another thing to note is the Know-How of Nike who were all over Smith in the Prince days.Fresh from sneaker world domination, The “Like Jordan Yo I’m scoring” could well be a subtle piece of marketing given Nike’s connections with Jordan.No doubt having a backer like them would come in handy for Smith.Then again the jordan line could have “Sledgehammer” like connotations also.

    Summertime was a fine record which needed no tv tie-in to boost it in the chart but looking back would BSTR have fared any better chart wise than say minor successes like (No need to check British hit singles Bunny!) Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” or the bloody-great Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” from 1995 were it not for Smith’s colossal profile at the time.

    Compared to the number ones it followed it doesnt sound like 93 all that much.Almost like the 90s version of “The only way is up”.The material is a bit lightweight and hyped-up for sure but Smith just about pulls it off.

  16. 41
    Alfred on 16 May 2012 #

    I wish you guys had had “Summertime” top your chart.

  17. 42
    Tim Byron on 16 May 2012 #

    To me this is the archetype of party rap – it was such an exciting sounding record to 11 year old me, at least, and it definitely featured at primary school dances of the time. It’s one of those songs where you never go very long without hearing one of the big, quotable, catchphrase hooks (pretty sure I remember kids in the playground trying to rap this, and people doing the call and response “yo, are you ready for me yet?” “pump it up, prince!”). And it did this without being offensively stupid or overly repetitive too. So it’d definitely be more than a 7 for me (and I suspect much of my generation).

    I wonder why it wasn’t quite the big hit in the US (it was a #13) that it was in the UK and Australia? Why didn’t middle American kids take to this? Was it more obvious to them that the vaguely harder edge of this compared to Summertime (which is much more PM Dawn/De La Soul) was bogus, or something?

  18. 43
    Erithian on 16 May 2012 #

    Hmmm, that generational divide arises again (he writes, two days after raising his bat to the pavilion for a half-century). This kind of thing was to become all too familiar at number one: a few minutes of empty bigging-up and laboured similes from the rapper, while the musical backing might sound good but has invariably been nicked from someone else’s creativity. I do find Smith engaging and have enjoyed some of his stuff, but – well, I’m not proposing to retire from Popular, but my comments on this type of record might be brief and formulaic.

  19. 44
    pink champale on 16 May 2012 #

    32/33 of course, kris kross and will smith were just dress rehearsals for the main event – let’s get ready to rhumble.

    (erm, regrettably, this sort of is my opinion – much as i really like both jump jump and b!str, watching them wreck the mike really does get me everytime).

    i’m formally taking back my foolish ‘hip hop wasn’t up to much in 93′ claim on the other thread btw (though i do stand by american indie rock not up to much in 93.

    and i can’t let a mention of black sunday go past without pausing to ponder the bottomless brilliance of “my oven’s on high while i roast the quail”

  20. 45
    flahr on 17 May 2012 #

    I’m prepared to revise this mark downwards if the words “tick, tick, tick tick BOOM!” don’t get out of my bloody head by tomorrow morning. [7]

    How nice to see, incidentally, that Popular will later meet songs with 100%, 200% and 300% more boomage.

  21. 46
    swanstep on 17 May 2012 #

    I just watched the vid for the Pitbull track from the forthcoming Men In Black 3. Probably a good idea for Smith to let someone else take care of the pop-chores this time, but it’s notable that Smith looks about as fresh and funny and ‘right’ (and as appealing to young kids) as ever in the clips. I do wish Smith had taken a few more risks over the last decade and a half, but I fully concede that the guy’s a phenomenon (Depp and Downey Jr have similarly incredible, ageless appeal at this point I suppose).

  22. 47
    Dan Quigley on 21 May 2012 #

    My key memory of this was its use as the concluding number in my Year 5 class’s end of year performance, which chronicled, in somewhat potted terms, the history of pop music in five songs. (If I recall correctly – and I do – the sequence was ‘In the Mood’ – ‘All Shook Up’ – ‘Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In’ – Sweet Child o’ Mine – BStR).

    For reasons perhaps not unrelated to my memory of dancing to this dressed as Private Pike, I have made no attempt to seek this out since then. Listening to it now, I find it very likable, while noting that Smith’s habit of taking an audible breath at the end of every line (a sort of aural full stop) doesn’t exactly enliven his flow.

  23. 48
    Alan Connor on 25 May 2012 #

    Which is not very interesting, or perhaps, even worthy of recall or repetition.

    I was sent to interview Snoop on the steps of an LA courthouse during the following series. He was apparently giving an audience only to The Word, because he was so grateful for the chronic that had been included in his rider when he’d been in the Teddington studios. Channel 4, if I recall, ditched the courthouse sequence in the end.

  24. 49
    Steve Mannion on 25 May 2012 #

    If only he’d seen Rod Hull’s rider he might’ve been more prepared for Emu’s brutal attack.

  25. 50
    Alan Connor on 25 May 2012 #

    Whitney brought a gun onto the studio floor. Someone should write this all down.

  26. 51
    lonepilgrim on 4 Jun 2012 #

    Has my fire really gone out?

  27. 52
    Tom on 5 Jun 2012 #

    Reigniting later today – took a break to do the ABBA week on One Week One Band.

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