Skip to main content

Will Smith says he crafted a joyful image to cover the pain of the past

The world knows Will Smith as a musician, a comedian and blockbuster movie star — perhaps even the most bankable star in the world. But in his new memoir, called Will, Smith explores another identity, one that has fueled his unwavering work ethic: that of a coward. Smith says that when he was 9, he stood by, watching helplessly as his father beat his mother. It was a moment that shaped his identity.


Other segments from the episode on November 10, 2021

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 10, 2021: Interview with Will Smith; Commentary about podcasts about music.



This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Our guest today is Will Smith. He has a new memoir that was published this week and a new movie that opens next week and will stream on HBO Max. Smith spoke with our guest interviewer, Tonya Mosley, a host of NPR's midday show Here & Now. Here's Tonya with more.

TONYA MOSLEY, BYLINE: We all think we know at least a little about Will Smith, right? He's a blockbuster movie star, a musician, a comedian, a social media savant and, for the last two decades, a constant bankable force in Hollywood. It's an image the Philly-born star has carefully crafted.

But in his new memoir, aptly called "Will," Smith explores another identity, one that has fueled his unwavering work ethic and commitment to being one of the biggest stars of our generation, and that's the identity of a coward. In unflinching detail, Smith explores how that identity was born. When Smith was 9 years old, he saw his father beat his mother. Paralyzed with fear, he stood frozen. It's an impossible position for a child to be in, and yet Smith has carried the burden that he didn't step in to rescue his mother and has spent his entire life trying to make up for it.

This is just one of many revelations in Smith's new memoir, "Will," which is out this week. Will Smith also has a new movie out this month. It's called "King Richard," and it's about how a father turned his dream of making his two daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, into two of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Will Smith, welcome to FRESH AIR.

WILL SMITH: Oh, thank you. I'm very happy to be here.

MOSLEY: Congratulations on adding author to all of those titles in your list of accomplishments.

SMITH: Of all of the other, I guess, hyphens, this one was the most painful (laughter).

MOSLEY: I can imagine, 'cause this book is a raw and introspective excavation of your life. You've always been open about your life with the public, but you've said that you felt free to go deep after your father's death in 2016. In what ways did his death free you to write this book?

SMITH: You know, there were a couple of things. First and foremost, the abuse of my childhood - you know, I saw my father beat up my mother, you know? And that narrative didn't fit into the image that I was crafting. You know, it was embarrassing. You know, there was a person I wanted to be or a person I thought I had to be to be able to create the life that I wanted to create, and I just never could have said that out loud while my father was alive, you know, because at the same time, my father was my hero, you know? And my father is largely responsible for all of the blessings and the things that I've been able to go on and create and build. So, you know, that internal conflict was dissolved when my father passed in 2016.

And so it was that and, I think, the combination of I felt like I had experienced enough things in my life that I had finally come to the point where I had suffered enough that the things that I might say could be valuable.

MOSLEY: You know, I interviewed Tarana Burke - she's the founder of #MeToo, the #MeToo movement - for the show recently. And she made this revelation that sometimes when someone is an overachiever, it's a response to trauma. And your book is grounded in this idea because you write to understand your success, we have to understand this trauma that you're talking about. And it starts with your father's anger and your inability as a child to stop him from hurting your mother. I mean, this incident left a permanent mark on how you viewed yourself.

You begin the book this way. Can you unpack that for us? In what ways did that incident leave that mark on you that you felt like a coward?

SMITH: Yeah. I've since talked to all of my brothers and sisters. And, you know, we were not a family that discussed those things. So the writing of the book really freed my siblings and I and my mother and even my children and my current family to be able to explore all of these things.

But that moment singularly shaped my childhood identity. I couldn't shake the idea that I had failed my mother and I was somehow unworthy of love and care because of my cowardice. And that's where - the beginnings of wanting to overachieve and wanting to create and wanting to win and wanting to build an external life that could somehow and hopefully cover the pain and the low self-esteem. So that the character, that "Fresh Prince" character, that buoyant, happy, joyful image was painted over a core of a real lack of self-esteem and self-respect.

MOSLEY: You spoke with your siblings about that incident that day. Have you ever talked to your mother about it?

SMITH: Yeah, this was the first time that I sat with my mother. I had a - what I called book camp. So basically, as I was writing a book - I was probably 85%, 90% finished the book. So I called everybody that I mentioned in the book, and I sat down, and for two weeks, I read everybody everything that I said about them. And we laughed, and we cried. And, you know, I allowed people to say, hey, that wasn't my experience. Can you please make this adjustment?

And I - for the first time ever - my mother and I had never talked about it. And, you know, there was a beautiful moment in the manuscript that - I ultimately took out this description, but I described my mother as defiant. And she said to me that, no, no, she wasn't being defiant. It was that she knew her children could see, and she knew her children could hear, and she didn't want us to think that he was hurting her.

But what registered to me as defiance, to her it was simply trying to protect us from the scars of the sounds that she would have made had she been, you know, free and wild with what - the pain that she was experiencing. You know, so it was a very cathartic time for us to sit down and, you know, talk through all of the moments and talk through the experiences. And she reassured me that she never viewed me as a coward.

MOSLEY: Was she surprised to hear, though, that that fueled you? Because you're a parent. I'm a parent. To see and hear your child speak this way after seeing so much success that you've had - I mean, she's proud of you, of course. But to hear that that was the thing that kind of fueled you, I mean, what was her reaction to that?

SMITH: Well, first it was shock. She had absolutely no idea that that's how I was processing the - you know, some of the experiences of my childhood. You know, it was a deeply emotional conversation. You know, my mother is wildly powerful. And she's not a big crier. But this conversation was a little too much. But we - you know, we got to the bottom of it. We talked it out thoroughly and, you know, we are better for it. We're talking in ways we never talked before. And we're interacting at deeper levels that we had never been able to reach before that conversation.

MOSLEY: I want to get into your relationship with your father and growing up, how that kind of created the person that we know as Will Smith. As you said, you feared your father, Daddy-O, as you called him.

SMITH: Yeah.

MOSLEY: But you also had great reverence for him, as you say. You wanted to feel his softness and approval, which sometimes came in the form of performance. I think that's not surprising, but it's really interesting to know these details because he loved to record you and your brother and sister. And you, of course, were a ham. That attention, it felt like love, but for you, it also was a way to distract him from his anger. Can you say more?

SMITH: Yeah. You know, my father was one of the greatest men I've ever known. My father was brilliant. My father was wise, you know, and not unlike other little boys, my father was the Superman image in my mind. And that was also one of the things that was difficult about writing this book and telling this story because as soon as people hear abuse, they paint an ogre in their mind. And, you know, my father wasn't an ogre. You know, my father was both things. My father was deeply brilliant. He never missed a game. He was a beautiful teacher. And, you know, he was military minded and he never abandoned the post of being a father. He put food on the table every night, you know. So it's - that dichotomy is part of what breaks the mind of a child in that way because you can't fit both of those things into one space, you know?

So in writing a book, it was really difficult for me because I know that people need the black and white. You know, people need good guys and bad guys and all of that, and my father wasn't a bad guy by a long shot. He was troubled, and he overcame many of his struggles to be able to provide a place for his family. And, you know, it was hard for me to feel like I could potentially do a disservice to the multiple aspects of what my father was and have my impressions soil his legacy in a way that would feel not nuanced, you know. So, you know, all of that to say my difficulties and my wounds and the childhood, the trauma, that precipitated the character and personality and the wins are - my father played a role on both sides.

MOSLEY: You lay it out, though, so well in the book about - I mean, my gosh, you start with the work ethic of your father and how he imparted that on you and your siblings. But this personality that you created to cope - and I say created, but it also is you - I mean, cheery and upbeat and...

SMITH: Yeah, for sure.

MOSLEY: ...Positive and fun - I mean, you're hugely successful. But have you ever thought about who you might have been if you hadn't experienced those traumas?

SMITH: You know, that is such a difficult idea. I don't remember - I always hate quoting authors and I don't remember who said it, but there's an idea of the adversity paradox, that, you know, as parents, we try to shield our children from adversity, not realizing that the adversity is what makes them strong, that being able to overcome adversity and being able to solve problems and being able to triumph over your difficulties is a really critical aspect. So it's like if I could go back and change it, would I? And it's no. It's like, those difficulties and those traumas and the mental anguish that I had to overcome was a big part of me growing into the person I am today. And I love my life. I'm happier than I have ever been. And it is largely based on the perception of myself that I can survive anything. Because of what I have been able to overcome, I have confidence in myself, I trust myself to manage whatever God decides I need to triumph against.

MOSLEY: If you're just joining us, my guest is Will Smith, actor, producer, musician and author of a new memoir, "Will." We'll be back after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tanya Mosley, and we're talking with two-time Oscar-nominated actor and musician Will Smith about his new memoir, "Will." He's also starring in the new movie "King Richard," where he plays Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams. Will, what drew you to the role of Venus and Serena Williams' father, Richard?

SMITH: You know, probably about 20 years ago, I saw - it's a famous video, and I'm sure you have seen it. There was one where Venus is doing an interview, and the interviewer keeps asking her about her confidence. And Richard interrupts the interview and slams the person who's asking her the question - you know, saying she's - you know, she answered you with a lot of confidence. You know, you are dealing with the image of a young Black child. It's like - you know, she done told you what's happening. Leave that alone. And I remember being blown away at how calm Venus' face was. It was almost a little bit of a smirk, as if she knew she had a lion. And she didn't want to sic her lion on nobody, but if somebody messed with her, her lion would attack and defend.

And I just remember, you know, people were talking about how crazy he was. And I'm looking at that - I'm like, how is that crazy? And I loved him from that moment. And then as - when the screenplay was presented to me a couple of years ago, that moment blossomed in my heart again. I was like, I absolutely want to get to know this man, I absolutely want to explore his story, and I absolutely want to try to honor this family and share the ideas that had been vilified and villainized in the world of tennis. I wanted to really dive into the heart of Richard Williams and to be able to shine some light on the core of love for his family that was the beating heart of what he was trying to accomplish.

MOSLEY: Right - because what we knew of him back then in the '90s were these clips - but this movie actually kind of tries to give us a full view of how he interacted with his daughters, more about that dream. There is this scene in "King Richard" where Richard is driving his daughters, Venus and Serena, to a fancy tennis club to play in front of a hotshot coach. And on the way, the houses they pass get bigger and more palatial. And Venus and Serena begin to daydream. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) I like that one.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Yeah, that one's nice. If that was my house, I'd put a pool in the front and a slide on the roof.

SMITH: (As Richard) Going to put your pool in the front?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) ...Have a big pool party. Everybody's going to want to come to my house.

SMITH: (As Richard) Oh, you're just going to be the crazy lady on the block.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) No, I want to be the coolest person on the block.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) That one has a...

SANIYYA SIDNEY AND DEMI SINGLETON: (As Venus And Serena) Tennis court.

SMITH: (As Richard) Oh, that's the one, then. That's the one. You going to have any one of these houses you want - Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, any of these old hills 'cause you got a plan, and you're going to stick to it. When I was a little boy, my moms used to say, son, the most strongest, the most powerful, the most dangerous creature on this whole Earth is a woman who know how to think. Ain't nothing she can't do. Y'all know how to think?

SIDNEY AND SINGLETON: (As Venus and Serena) Yes, Daddy.

SMITH: (As Richard) Now, these peoples we about to go see, you going to show them how dangerous you are?

SIDNEY AND SINGLETON: (As Venus and Serena) Yes, Daddy.

SMITH: (As Richard) Let me see your dangerous face.

SIDNEY AND SINGLETON: (As Venus and Serena, imitating growls).

SMITH: (As Richard) Where your - that's your dangerous face?

SIDNEY AND SINGLETON: (As Venus and Serena, imitating growls).


SMITH: (As Richard) There you go. That's your dangerous face. That's - OK, don't do that for the people.


MOSLEY: That's a scene from the new film "King Richard." Will, that part when Richard says to Venus and Serena, you two have a plan, and you're going to stick to it - I mean, does that dogged determination that Richard exuded feel familiar? It feels familiar for me after reading your book.

SMITH: Oh, absolutely. Part of my ability to understand Richard Williams is related to my father and slightly to my parenting, also. But Richard Williams and my father were from a different generation. You know, they were from a generation where they can fix things with their hands. They build things with their bodies, you know? So it was a completely different mindset, you know, post-World War II kind of pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kind of mentality.

But they also were dreamers that couldn't find support, that could only find degradation and disrespect at every turn. And they were both determined to build a better circumstance for their children. So I could relate to that. I understood Richard Williams through my father's eyes when he would come in after 16- and 18-hour days at work with a hell-bent dedication and determination to feed and elevate his family.

GROSS: We're listening to the interview our guest interviewer, Tonya Mosley, recorded with Will Smith. He has a new memoir called "Will" that was published this week. And he stars in the new film "King Richard" that opens next week in theaters and will be streaming on HBO Max. Tonya is a host of NPR's midday show Here & Now. We'll hear more of the interview after a break. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


SMITH: (Rapping) In West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days, chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool and all shooting some b-ball outside of the school, when a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got in one little fight, and my mom got scared and said, you're with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air. I begged and pleaded with her day after day, but she packed my suitcase and sent me on my way. She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket. I put my Walkman on and said I might as well kick it. First class, yo, this is bad, drinking orange...

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to the interview our guest interviewer Tonya Mosley recorded with Will Smith. He has a new memoir called "Will." He stars in the new movie "King Richard" as Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams. It opens in theaters next week and will stream on HBO Max.

MOSLEY: Will, what this movie does is show the multitudes of Richard. I mean, I'm thinking about the ways that you talked about your father and the multitudes of your father. But one thing that we didn't get from all of those media portrayals, I mean, those interviews that we saw of Richard back in the '90s, as you said, the love that was behind the push for his girls to excel - there is this scene where someone, presumably a neighbor, calls social services on the Williams family. They call them because Richard had the girls practicing in the rain. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) ...Dinner before you go to sleep?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) No, ma'am.

SMITH: (As Richard Williams) What's going on? Everybody OK?

AUNJANUE ELLIS: (As Oracene Williams) They got a call, said there was trouble in the house and that we were being rough with the girls and they needed to look.

SMITH: (As Richard) A call from who?

ELLIS: (As Oracene) Not at liberty to say.

SMITH: (As Richard) OK, OK.

ELLIS: (As Oracene) Yeah.

SMITH: (As Richard) You all need to look around? Go, you can check on in the cupboards. Maybe you can go check under the beds, make sure there's no monsters.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) It's a little wet for practice, don't you think? Don't the girls have schoolwork to do?

ELLIS: (As Oracene) They do their homework. Tunde's first in her class. Lyn and Isha are, too.

SMITH: (As Richard) That's right. Girls, spell civilization.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Oh, Mr. Williams, this is really not necessary.

SMITH: (As Richard) Wait. Now, hold on. Hold on. You want to check on the kids? Let's check on the kids. We got future doctors and lawyers plus a couple tennis stars in this house. Now, I understand you got to do your job, even if some crazy ass neighbor do call, talking foolishness. And I don't even mind you saying we hard on these kids. You know why? 'Cause we are. That's our job - to keep them off these streets. You want to arrest us for that? Fine. But what you not going to never do is come knock on this door, talking about you had to blow their damn brains out in them streets 'cause they running with hoodlums and doing drugs and things. That's what you not going to never say in this house.

MOSLEY: That's another scene from the film "King Richard." I mean, what surprises did you learn about the way he raised his daughters and ran his household?

SMITH: One of the biggest surprises was when we think about Richard Williams, we think about a standard overbearing parent, and he was so not that. He wasn't the father that was hammering and pounding his kids to excel. He was the father who used love. And he aligned with what they wanted for their lives. And it was a family mission. It wasn't Richard's mission to get his kids to become something that would satiate his ego, you know? So one of the major things that I got from talking to Venus and Serena was they were pushing Richard in a way that - Venus called it the Jedi mind trick, that he somehow did a Jedi mind trick on them where they were pushing to play tennis. They wanted to excel.

MOSLEY: (Laughter).

SMITH: In terms of Richard's priorities, God was first, alongside family and love and school, and tennis was fifth or sixth on the list of what he wanted from them. They had to complete all of their other tasks and all - they had to, you know, be at the top of all of the other elements before they were allowed to play tennis, you know? So it was a very, very different kind of relationship when we looked at it. There's a scene in the movie where, you know, he says, you know, Venus Williams, who is your best friend, you know? And that was the relationship that they had. They were a family on a collective mission to become powerful contributors in the world more than to be successful tennis players. They were just using tennis as a way to cultivate powerful, loving, God-fearing human beings.

MOSLEY: Let's get into your parenting a little bit 'cause I think that the world is really fascinated with Richard Williams and folks like you because we see your successful children. I mean, from the outside, many of us have watched how you and your wife Jada parent your children - Trey from your first marriage to Sheree, and Jaden and Willow. Even with parenting, you not only set out to be the best dad in the world, you committed to that. I mean, what has parenting taught you about the flaws of seeking perfection?

SMITH: You know, I guess for me, the - you know, I fell right into my father's military mindset. And the transition and the transformation that I had to make over the past few years with my parenting the past decade, really, is, you know, from a place of seeking product - right? - seeking an end result, seeking a goal, to opening to understanding my children's unique talents and difficulties and supporting their vision for their lives, rather than demanding that they adhere to my vision for their lives.

MOSLEY: Well, you write about this in detail in the book. Willow - there's a story about Willow when she had that hit, "Whip My Hair Back And Forth" (ph). And she told you she didn't want to do it anymore after she had been on tour for a while. But, you know, what struck me about that story, Will, is that she felt safe enough to tell you that.

SMITH: Yes, absolutely. And that was the thing that I had to cultivate with my children. And, you know, Willow's the youngest, so - you know, I always say, you know, Trey got the most ignorant version of my parenting...

MOSLEY: (Laughter).

SMITH: ...And Jaden got Will Dad 2.0, and Willow ultimately got the most evolved version.

MOSLEY: If you're just joining us, my guest is Will Smith - actor, producer, musician and author of a new memoir, "Will." We'll be back after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley, and we're talking with two-time Oscar-nominated actor and musician Will Smith about his new memoir, "Will." He's also starring in the new movie "King Richard," where he plays Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams. You're forever a student. There's this story that I found really funny in the book where you made this decision, as I mentioned before, that you wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world. And there were this - there was this moment at this premiere where you met the three wise men, as you call them.

SMITH: (Laughter) Yeah.

MOSLEY: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. And Arnold tells you something about what makes a movie star that changed how you move through this industry. What did he say to you?

SMITH: Hold on. Let me see. So, you know, I asked (imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger) I'm trying to see if I can do my Arnold voice.


SMITH: He said - you know, he told me that in order to be a movie star, my movies couldn't only be successful in America. My movies had to be successful in every country in the world and that I had to go there. And he told me to think of myself as a politician running for biggest movie star in the world. And you go to every country and you shake hands and you kiss babies and, you know, you want people to recognize you and love you in every country on earth. And I took that to heart very seriously. You know, I had already been around the world once with music, but it wasn't with that mentality. And, you know, the thing that he said that really stuck was the concept of a politician. And when I saw that, I was like, oh, yeah.

So he gave me the character and the look. And, you know, as a politician, you want to get out and you want to press the flesh, you know, so you want to shake people's hands, you want to meet people and you want to show up. And I was very surprised at how many actors didn't recognize that as the way to build a global career is that it's grassroots, you know. It's door to door, red carpet to red carpet, country to country.

MOSLEY: There's this story you tell of seeing how Tom Cruise navigated through this space. And if he spent five hours on a red carpet signing autographs, you were going to spend six (laughter).

SMITH: Yeah, yeah, no. I was tracking myself with Tom for quite a few years. He's unbeatable, though (laughter). He will stay out there for insane amounts of time. You know, there was a report I got from Berlin where he literally signed every autograph on a red carpet, you know, six hours out there signing. Like, he - you know, he's hard to beat, you know. But that idea and that mentality and that, you know, creating a global footprint and being able to go out and to be able to understand what a French audience likes in their movies - you know, why was Jerry Lewis so successful in France, you know, similar to the way that Jim Carrey was? And it's like, ah, physical comedy because they're speaking a different language. And, you know, films that are subtitled, for whatever reason, the French don't accept subtitled films as much as the Spanish, for example, or the Germans, right? So - but you can't know that if you don't go market to market and study and understand the subtle nuances that make entertainment penetrate.

MOSLEY: I want to ask you about a project you're working on, "Emancipation." It's the story of Whipped Peter. He's the man depicted in one of the most famous photos of enslaved Americans, his whipped back showing the brutality of slavery. You said that early in your career you didn't want to star in films about slavery because you didn't want to depict us in this way. What changed for you?

SMITH: Absolutely. You know, in the first part of my career, it was really important to me to - it was like, I want to be considered for the same roles that Tom Cruise is considered for. I don't want to be seen as a Black actor. I want to be seen as an actor equal to all of my, you know, white or Latin or counterparts. I'm an actor. I'm a human to be seen on the same level. So it was really important to me to play characters that weren't necessarily Black in the screenplay. You know, all of that to say - so roles in slavery, I was not considering those at the time. But when - you know, when this role came around, one of - the first that I considered was "Django."

I was - Quentin and I talked for a long time about the potential of "Django." And I ultimately decided against "Django" because I didn't want to make a movie set in slavery about vengeance. It was just slightly outside of my perception and belief in the ultimate goodness of humanity. So when the Whipped Peter story came around, it is a story set during the time of emancipation, but the core of it is love. It's a man who was separated from his family and his love and his faith, and God helped him to persevere and to ultimately emancipate and reunite. So I would say the philosophical, thematic premise is what really drew me to "Emancipation."

MOSLEY: You know, from reading this book, we can really tell that you are intentional in this quest to evolve to improve upon yourself. But Will, do you sometimes still feel like that scared little boy motivated by fear? Does that fear still exist in you?

SMITH: You know, I have almost completely and totally purified and transcended that scared little boy. You know, I'm almost at 98%, I would say. The writing of the book was a very powerful, cleansing, purifying endeavor. So I would say I feel almost completely - I'm not sure if there's 100%. I'm not even sure if 100% is real. But I feel free. I feel clear, and I am focusing on cultivating the most powerful and loving version of myself to go out into the world and to give and to love and to care for people in the way that my grandmother tried to get me to understand almost 50 years ago.

MOSLEY: Will Smith, thank you so much for this conversation.

SMITH: Thank you so much.

GROSS: Will Smith spoke with guest interviewer Tonya Mosley. Smith's new memoir is called "Will." He stars in the film "King Richard," which opens next week in theaters and will stream on HBO Max. Tonya is a host of NPR's midday show Here & Now.


SMITH: (Rapping) Woo - uh, uh, uh, uh - haha, haha - what, what, what, what. On your mark, ready, set, let's go - dance floor pro. I know. You know. I go psycho when my new joint hit, just can't sit. Got to get jiggy wit it. Ooh, that's it. Now, honey, honey, come ride - DKNY, all up in my eye. You got a Prada bag with a lot of stuff in it. Give it to your friend. Let's spin. Everybody looking at me, glancin' the kid, wishing they was dancing the jig here with this handsome kid, ciga (ph) cigar - right - from Cuba, Cuba. I just bite it. It's for the look. I don't light it. Ill-way the an-may on the ance-day oor-flay (ph), give it up jiggy make it feel like foreplay. You, my cardio is infinite - haha. Big Willie style's all in it.

(Singing) Gettin' jiggy wit it. Na, na, na, na, na, na, na - na, na, na, na, na, na. Gettin' jiggy wit it. Na, na, na, na, na, na, na - na, na, na, na, na, na. Gettin' jiggy wit it. Na, na, na, na, na, na, na - na, na, na, na, na, na. Gettin' jiggy wit it. Na, na, na, na, na, na, na - na, na, na, na, na, na. (Rapping) What? You want to ball with the kid? Watch your step. You might fall trying to do what I did. Mama, mama, mama, come closer. In the middle of the club, we could rub a dub, uh. No love for the haters - they haters mad 'cause I got floor seats at the Lakers. See me on the 50-yard line with the Raiders. Met Ali - he told told me I'm the greatest. I got the fever for the flavor of a crowd pleaser. DJ play another from the prince of this. Your highness, only mad chicks ride in my whips - south to the west to the east to the north, bought my hits and watch them go off, a go off - ah, yes-yes, y'all. Ya don't stop in the winter or the summertime. I makes it hot. Gettin' jiggy wit 'em.

(Singing) Na, na, na, na, na, na, na - na, na, na, na, na, na. Gettin' jiggy wit it. Na, na, na, na, na, na, na...

GROSS: After we take a short break, podcast critic Nick Quah will tell us about some podcasts in the format called music and talk. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.


This Romanian film about immigration and vanishing jobs hits close to home

R.M.N. is based on an actual 2020 event in Ditrău, Romania, where 1,800 villagers voted to expel three Sri Lankans who worked at their local bakery.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue