Unfortunately, along with new beginnings and second chances, the new year also brought with it some bad news. It was announced on New Years day that, due to complications after open-heart surgery, James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil on the iconic “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” had passed away at the age of 68.
While Avery had a very accomplished career on stage and television, he’ll be remembered by most hip-hop fans as the patriarchal judge who took no mess from his nephew Will (Will Smith) and his three kids Carlton (Alfonso Robeiro) Hilary (Karyn Parsons) and Ashley (Tatyana Ali). Affectionately known as the uncle to every ’80s baby that grew up without their father, it’s easy to see why “Uncle Phil” was so often referenced in rap lyrics.
Although he’ll be missed in the physical, he’ll be remembered forever by the episodes he’s filmed and by the lyrics that immortalized him. Here’s a few.
HE WAS PAID:
Juicy J, “One Of Those Nights”
“Got a house on the hill cost a couple of mill/ Juicy J got bank like Uncle Phil”
Mac Miller, “DEfinition of Cool”
“I’mma stick around, call me mildew/ Gonna stay in Bel-Air like Uncle Phil do…”
Lil Wayne, “Maybach Music 2”
“Sweet as banana split every time I peel through/Fresher than Will Smith and Uncle Phil too…”
His last name was “Banks,” he lived in Bel-Air and sure didn’t look like he missed a meal. Any questions?
HE WAS A PIMP:
Logic, “Tic Tac Toe”
“You know the drill, come on you know the deal/If my shorty acting up, I’ll wife swap like Uncle Phil…”
“Deceiving you are the reason that I don’t believe in finding the love that I need/ and I’m Uncle Phil I switch wifey like every season”
Uncle Phil’s wife Vivian (aka “Aunt Viv”) was played by two different actresses during the show’s tenure; Janet Hubert-Whitten held it down for the first three seasons before leaving the show and was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the last three. This wife-swap inspired some interesting couplets. How many of us would love to swap wives wives every few years after a quick audition? I mean some of us do, but Phil had it popping before it was an alternative lifestyle.
HE WAS GANGSTA…
Childish Gambino, “Who Datt Pt 2”
“Throwing out your jazz man, but you don’t look like Uncle Phil/ F*cking girls from TV shows, my DVR is on the pill”
You can look up to rappers, but when it came to putting hands on cats for talking slick, your man Uncle Phil was manhandling them Philly thugs waaay before Jay-Z. And he never needed security to do it. Case closed.
MAYBE A BIT OF A KILLJOY…
Fabolous, “House Party”
“I say one big room full of real n*ggas/Bunch of bad b*tches, and some chill liquor/crib out in Bel-Air, No uncle Phil n*ggas”
Slick talk, first wives and good times? Ya man uncle Phil would, could and did shut down everything moving… early.
BUT HE WAS A GREAT FATHER FIGURE…
Drake, “5AM in Toronto”
“All them boys in my will/All them boys is my wheels/Anything happen to pop then I got you like Uncle Phil”
Add-2 “Don’t Go”
“Sometimes I need reminders why I bother to rap, then I think back to cats who only father is rap/A deadbeats, but you n*ggas is Lou, I’m Uncle Phil gotta give them something real cause if I don’t who Will. It’s like that..”
Hit-Boy, “Jay-Z Interview”
“You 0 for 3, I’m shooting a hundred right from the field now/I’m just a Fresh Prince, buzzing like Uncle Phil’s child”
What rich black man you know is taking on extra kids on purpose? Only Dwayne Wade and Big Bill Phil. Will gets shot, Phil holds it down. Carlton in a coma? Phil got that. Ashley becomes a child star? Not a drug in the place on Phil’s watch. Everybody went to college, everybody was right, wife aint want for nothing and if you still need to be convinced that Phil was the dad most rappers wish they had… remember when Will’s dad ditched him for the 2nd time? Check the technique.
A few less rappers trying to be gangster and couple more Uncle Phils being real men? This world might be aight. #RIPUnclePhil
Lyrics courtesy of RG
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Where Are They Now?
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