Rarely is there a show put on television that resonates with an audience so much that it continues to live on through re-runs and nostalgic pieces written by your favorite digital journalists. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” is one of those shows. The show began in 1990 and launched the acting career of rapper Will Smith and brought actors Tatyana Ali, Alfonso Ribeiro, and James Avery to prominence. The show’s finale aired 18 years ago and we still can’t get enough of The Fresh Prince’s antics with his best friend Jazz.
Our friends over at The Stashed have a personal connection to the hit NBC sitcom. One of the writers is the son of DJ Jazzy Jeff who played Jazz. Take a look at how writer Cory Townes says the famous handshake between his dad and Will Smith changed his life. Read an excerpt below:
To provide context to all further viewpoints, my father is Jeffrey Allen Townes, a.k.a. DJ Jazzy Jeff, one half of the Philadelphia rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and “Jazz” on the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Needless to say, my connections to the show are strong. I remember being taken to Los Angeles with him when I was in grade school, whether for a birthday or just to hang with him, doing a week’s worth of homework for a day, and then spending the rest of the time chilling out, maxing and relaxing (or enough that a 10-year-old kid could do).
I met the entire cast on different occasions, walked on the set, kicked it in the pool house, etc. It was pretty cool, amazing to other kids my age, but pretty normal for me. Growing up with your father on your television and on the radio was pretty – how can I say – unique. I definitely lived a life different than the average black kid from Southwest Philadelphia. But with those perceived advantages and perks, came pitfalls. My father spent most of his time in LA shooting shows or recording music. I didn’t get a chance to see him a lot, while seeing him on my TV screen every Monday night. I didn’t understand, as much as my mother did her best to explain. It was weird. But as I got older and started to develop my own tastes in things like music, art, and, well, television, I started to look at Fresh Prince in a new light.
The character Will Smith was an African-American teenager from West Philadelphia who got into some trouble in his neighborhood and was shipped off to his wealthy relatives in Bel Air, California. Now while that isn’t the ideal situation for many of the youth in the neighborhoods in Philly, the show was a hit because one of our own was not only on our television, but was bringing the city with him. It was cool to hear the word “jawn” on a syndicated show. It was cool to see Charles Barkley and Philadelphia Flyers t-shirts in LA. He wore his clothes like us, talked like us, and represented the city that made all of us. It was a form of “art imitating life,” as Will always spoke proudly to the media about being from Philadelphia, the corner stores and basketball courts that shaped him into the worldwide celebrity that he is today. It was something we related to, and it was something we held, and still hold onto, dearly.
You can read the rest of the article at The Stashed.
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