It’s been common knowledge that Will Smith doesn’t swear in his rap songs for a long time now and he’s gained a reputation for it that isn’t negative but is kind of positive since between rapping and acting there’s no doubt that he lets a lot of words fly on screen, but usually only when he’s playing in action movies where it’s warranted by the writers. When it comes to rapping he’s always kept a pretty civil tongue and as Kelli Boyle of E! News reports it’s largely because when he was 12 his grandmother found his rap journal and kindly tried to steer him away from using the same expletives that so many other rappers were using and still use in their songs. The only thing that doesn’t jive with a lot of people is the whole idea that ‘intelligent’ people don’t feel the need to swear because they’re ‘better’ than that. People get to say and believe what they want, it’s a pretty common belief that swearing is considered low-brow to some and healthy to others, but there is a compromise between the two since it’s not exactly necessary to lay an f-bomb with every other word but it’s also not against the rules of life to be intelligent and to swear.
Richard Stevens of Science Alert might want to have a word with Will’s grandma and anyone else that thinks swearing is a sign of low intelligence since like a lot of other people Stevens tends to think that intelligence is not bound up by how many expletives we can crank out in a given sentence, which makes more sense when one thinks about it since some of the smartest people in the world are still capable of launching an expletive-filled tirade that might make a veteran of any service blush furiously. From a social standpoint swearing isn’t always absolutely necessary but it is how some people learn to communicate and how they relate to one another. In terms of music it can help to give a line a bit more punch or emotion or it can create a situation in the song that has a different feel and therefore elevates the song in a way so as to keep it moving without fear of stagnating. In other words cursing in music is sometimes a little over the top since saturation can occur with swearing pretty easily, but a few words here and there can actually make it sound a little better. Will has been adamant however about keeping his songs clean and his raps different enough from the likes of others out of respect to his family and his fans.
If anyone can recall there was a moment in time when Will Smith and Eminem threw shade at one another over the whole idea of swearing in their music, with Eminem taking some sort of umbrage at Smith’s squeaky-clean raps and laying it down to let people know just what he thought. Will did respond after a while but not in the way that people might have expected, and definitely not with a diss track as Machine Gun Kelly did a while back. The thing about Will Smith is that he was a good rapper back when he was younger and the 90s were still in full swing, when the nice rap could still get a lot of play and people hadn’t been fully taken over by gangsta rap just yet. Once he went into acting though his singing career was still up but eventually it started to falter as his hit songs started to lower in number and last longer when they had a good enough hook. For a long time now he’s been one of the rappers that people go to when they want to hear something with a great beat but none of the swearing that so many other rappers are well-known for. He hasn’t made any apologies for it and quite honestly never should since he’s done his thing for a long time now and been highly successful at it. This could be why his response to Eminem wasn’t angry or even aimed at Em in any significant way. He was issuing a response in his own style that was the equivalent of a smile and wave at Eminem, who despite being one of the most popular rappers of his time never did manage to amass the same following as Smith given that Will has been a part of pop culture for longer and been more diverse.
Trying to compare Will Smith to hardcore rappers almost feels like trying to compare pop singers to heavy metal, there’s a link there somewhere but it doesn’t add up as quickly or as easily. Will Smith is a great actor and a pretty decent singer, but when it comes to rapping he’s definitely not as hardcore.