More Culture:

September 27, 2023

New Will Smith podcast explores how 1988 spurred hip-hop's rise in popularity

The 8-episode series features interviews with Queen Latifah, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Salt-N-Pepa. It becomes available Oct. 26

Will Smith is celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop this fall with a new podcast that focuses on the artists that defined 1988 and helped turn the genre into a cultural phenomenon. 

On "Class of '88," Smith interviews eight hip-hop performers about their memories of 1988 and how the year set the stage for the rest of their careers. The podcast intertwines the conversations with musical snippets and other archived recordings. 

All eight episodes become available on Audible and Amazon Music on Thursday, Oct. 26. 

Smith provides a first-hand look at the rise of Public Enemy and the Fresh Prince, and the influence of female MCs and the beginnings of hip-hop as a global genre. The podcast's guests include Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, Fab 5 Freddy, Chuck D, Rakim, J.J. Fad, DJ Red Alert and DJ Jazzy Jeff. 

In a trailer released last week, Smith and his guests share the perceptions that people had about hip-hop in its earlier days, noting critics viewed it as a fad with an "expiration date, like milk." Good music was plentiful in 1988, Queen Latifah notes. Artists like the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff were seeing record album sales and going on tour as the rest of the music industry caught up to hip-hop's growing popularity. 

"Hip-hop has been a central part of my life for over four decades," Smith said in a press release. "I'm hyped to share my first-hand experiences and those of some of hip-hop's greatest legends as we delve into the origins of one of the most influential genres of music in history." 

Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff began working as a hip-hop duo in 1985, but it wasn't until their first album, "Rock The House," in 1987 that they received any mainstream attention. The duo won the first Grammy Award for best rap performance for "Parents Just Don't Understand" in 1989. Their most popular song, "Summertime," peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991. 

Smith was among the dozens of hip-hop artists that Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson asked to perform at the Grammy Awards earlier this year in celebration of hip-hop's 50th anniversary. Smith, a four-time Grammy winner, was unable to attend because he was filming "Bad Boys 4."