Will Smith's 'Big Willie Style' turns 20 years old this year

It seems like as Will Smith’s star has risen as an actor, many have forgotten that what made him famous in the first place was his music.

Beginning in 1988 with the still anthemic “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” Smith rose to fame on the strength of his clean-cut and hilarious lyrics, and it was his star power as a rapper that got him his first acting gig, starring as a caricature of himself on the hit NBC show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

While he was still with the show, he continued to drop smash records, but by 1994, he was fully devoted to acting, starring in such blockbusters as "Bad Boys" and 1996’s "Independence Day." By the end of ‘96, he was a full-fledged movie star, but the music was still big in his life, he just never really found the time to get back into the studio.

But after finishing Independence Day and the media promotion that followed, Smith found some down time to finally get back into the studio and lay down some tracks for his first album without his long-time best friend, DJ Jazzy Jeff.

It took nearly 10 months to create the LP, but when Big Willie Style was dropped on record store shelves on Nov. 25, 1997, it was well worth the wait.

In a lot of ways, Smith’s Big Willie Style was a breath of fresh air from the gangster rap that was ruling over the hip-hop world at the time. Big Willie Style was made in the same vein as his Fresh Prince albums in that it was very clean cut. But the major difference between Big Willie Style and his Fresh Prince LPs is that the clean lyrics were made for a more mature audience rather than for teens.

It was always interesting how Smith’s lyrical game would work with a more grown up audience, but he proved that he could still have that magic touch with adults just as he had with kids. If you’re looking for a great party hip-hop album to jam to, Big Willie Style will definitely quench your thirst.