“My 911 call would be Academy Award-level,” Smith reveals later when his elderly father is in a wheelchair, recalling how he pondered throwing him down a flight of stairs like Richard Widmark’s character in the film noir “Kiss of Death.” An unusually somber moment from a guy known for his outgoing personality and eagerness to ensure that everyone around him had a good time.
His reputation for being “soft” and “gum” still stands in the way in the rap industry, which is where he first established his name. Even though he came from a middle-class family, he had to deal with a fair amount of violence both outside and within the house. He and his crew were so confident a fight would ensue at an early encounter with an angry television management that his manager hoisted a five-pound snow globe in anticipation of self-defense.
When he was in Catholic school, he says, he learned to appeal to white sensibilities until his parents took him out following a racist incident at the football reward ceremony; then at Overbrook High, he claims, he learned to get into what mom-mom called “hippity-hopping,” which was mostly black. Smith’s association with non-lymphoma Hodgkin’s survivor Jeffrey Allen Townes, nicknamed DJ Jazzy Jeff, was so successful that he opted not to attend college. “We were searching for our sound, but we discovered ourselves,” he writes of their early cooperation.
It’s a gorgeous 3D postcard from the genre’s golden beginning, with scenes from tours with Public Enemy and 2 Live Crew, as well as onstage sex and the nightly “hanging” of a stuntman dressed as the Ku Klux Klan. Quincy Jones, who played Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, gave Smith a second chance as a co-star with Townes in a bespoke comedy called “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
The literary acumen and trust in his manager’s judgment that Smith had in his mother and mother, as well as in John Guare’s “Six Degrees of Separation,” allowed him, as a young man, to pay $10 million for an early project called “8 Heads in a Duffel Bag,” instead of going with Paul Poitier in John Guare’s “Six Degrees of Separation” for $300,000. Paulo Coelho and Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” and “The Alchemist” are two of his favorite books.
It is Smith’s hero’s first goal in life: to get more money, fame and world-wide recognition. Regardless of the fact that his second wife, the tough Jada Pinkett, doesn’t want to arrive at a stallion’s breakfast as Sue Ellen Ewing did.