Big Willie Style

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Big Willie Style
Studio album by Will Smith
Released November 25, 1997 (1997-11-25)
Recorded 1996–97
Label Columbia
Will Smith chronology
Big Willie Style
Singles from Big Willie Style
  1. "Men in Black"
    Released: June 16, 1997
  2. "Just Cruisin'"
    Released: December 1, 1997
  3. "Gettin' Jiggy wit It"
    Released: January 27, 1998
  4. "Just the Two of Us"
    Released: July 20, 1998
  5. "Miami"
    Released: November 23, 1998

Big Willie Style is the debut studio album by American rapper Will Smith. It was released on November 25, 1997, by Columbia Records. Recording sessions took place from 1996 to 1997, with a range of several record producers that Will was working with such as Poke & Tone and his former collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff on the album. The album reached the top ten on both the US Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart, and later became a certified multi-platinum in a number of regions and countries. The album was supported by five singles: "Men in Black", "Just Cruisin'", "Gettin' Jiggy wit It", "Just the Two of Us" and "Miami".

After releasing five albums as part of the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Smith turned his focus to acting, starring in films such as Bad Boys and Independence Day. During the same period he recorded his first solo album, including the single "Men in Black", which is the theme song to the film of the same name, which topped singles charts in a number of countries. Big Willie Style went on to become Smith's most commercially successful album, earning him a number of music awards and nominations.

Recording and production[edit]

Recording for Big Willie Style took place mainly in New York City – four tracks ("Y'All Know", "Chasing Forever", "Miami" and "Just Cruisin'") were recorded at The Hit Factory, and four tracks ("Gettin' Jiggy wit It", "Candy", "Yes Yes Y'All" and "Big Willie Style") were recorded at Right Track Studios.[1] Three tracks ("Don't Say Nothin'", "I Loved You" and "It's All Good") were recorded at DJ Jazzy Jeff's A Touch of Jazz Studios, in Smith's hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and "Just the Two of Us" was recorded at Pacifique Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California.[1] Production in New York City was shared mainly between Poke & Tone and L.E.S., while DJ Jazzy Jeff produced the Philadelphia tracks; "Just the Two of Us" was produced by Curtis "Sauce" Wilson.[1] Other contributing producers were Keith Pelzer, Ryan Toby (both on "Don't Say Nothin'" and "I Loved You"), Andreao Heard ("Y'All Know") and Valvin Roane ("I Loved You").[1]

The songs on the album are broken up by a number of interludes featuring exchanges between Smith and the fictional character Keith B-Real, an "hilarious" magazine editor and motivational-tape artist.[2] B-Real is voiced by actor Jamie Foxx.[3] All four of the "Keith B-Real" skits (including "Intro") were recorded by Jean-Claude Olivier – Poke of Poke & Tone – at The Hacienda in Los Angeles, California, and co-produced by Smith.[1]



As with Smith's previous releases with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Big Willie Style showcases a radio-friendly pop-rap sound with non-explicit lyrics.[4] Speaking about the lyrics on Big Willie Style, Jamie Hunter of Rolling Stone noted that on the album Smith "takes pains to make clear that there is indeed life beyond the bottom line"; songs on the album feature themes of multiculturalism and monogamy, and see Smith telling "the larger story of rap values tweaking the American dream, of how he's come to terms with the conflict between the neighborhood and the global cineplex".[2]


The musical production on Big Willie Style is focused largely around samples of disco and soul music acts from the 1980s;[2][4] artists sampled include Sister Sledge ("He's the Greatest Dancer" on "Gettin' Jiggy wit It"), Stevie Wonder ("Ribbon in the Sky" on "Chasing Forever"), and The Whispers ("And the Beat Goes On" on "Miami").[1]

Promotion and release[edit]

The release of Big Willie Style was preceded by the single "Men in Black" in June 1997, originally released on Men in Black: The Album. The title track to the film of the same name was a commercial success, topping singles charts in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom,[5] where it remained atop the chart for four weeks.[6] "Just Cruisin'" was released as the album's second single in December, charting at number 23 on the UK Singles Chart.[6]

In January 1998, "Gettin' Jiggy wit It" was released as the third single from the album to great commercial success – it became the first single by Smith to top the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart,[7] and also reached the top ten in numerous other regions. "Just the Two of Us" and "Miami" were the final two singles released from the album, and both enjoyed mild commercial success in the US by reaching the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100;[7] the singles were more successful in the UK, however, where they reached number two and number three on the UK Singles Chart, respectively.[6]



Big Willie Style was a commercial success. Reaching a peak position of number eight on the US Billboard 200 chart, it remained on the chart for a total of 99 weeks.[8] On the UK Albums Chart, the record entered at number 63 in December 1997, remaining in the top 100 for 29 weeks; in July the following year the album returned to the top 100, and by January 1999 it had reached its peak position of number nine.[6] In total, the album spent 87 weeks in the UK top 100, during three separate periods.[6] Other regions in which the album peaked in the top ten include France (#5), Norway (#8) and the Netherlands (#9).[9][10] In 1999, Billboard reported that Big Willie Style had been the 39th best-selling pop album of the period between 1990 and 1999.[11]

By July 2000, Big Willie Style had been certified nine times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, indicating US sales of over nine million units.[12] The album is also certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association, indicating Australian sales of over 35,000 units,[13] double platinum by the British Phonographic Industry, indicating sales in the UK of over 600,000 units,[14] and six times platinum by Music Canada, indicating Canadian sales of over 600,000 units.[15]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic[4]4/5 stars
Entertainment Weekly[16]C–
Rolling Stone[2]3.5/5 stars

Media response to Big Willie Style was mixed. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of website AllMusic awarded the album four out of five stars, praising Smith's "trademark ... friendly, humorous pop-rap" style, which he pointed out had been modernised since his releases with DJ Jazzy Jeff.[4] In particular, Erlewine highlighted the songs "Gettin' Jiggy wit It", "Candy", "I Loved You" and "Men in Black" as "among his best" songs.[4] Rolling Stone writer James Hunter was similarly positive, describing the album as "wickedly well-conceived", praising the album's "delicious party jams" and noting "Gettin' Jiggy wit It" and "Yes Yes Y'All" as particular highlights.[2] He concludes by praising the lyrical themes of the album, dubbing Big Willie Style "an exceptional megacelebrity album".[2]

Entertainment Weekly writer Jim Farber, however, slated the album, describing it as being full of "nonstop pop-rap clichés" and claiming that "The musical world suffered no great loss when Will Smith ditched rapping for acting".[16] Critic Robert Christgau categorised the singles "Gettin' Jiggy wit It", "Just the Two of Us" and "Miami" as "good [songs] on an album that isn't worth your time or money".[17]

Accolades and awards[edit]

Big Willie Style earned Smith recognition at a number of music industry awards ceremonies. At the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, the music video for "Men in Black" won the award for Best Video from a Film, and received nominations for Best Male Video, Best Choreography and Best Special Effects.[18] Smith won again at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, receiving awards for Best Male Video and Best Rap Video for "Just the Two of Us" and "Gettin' Jiggy wit It", respectively, as well as nominations for Video of the Year, Best Dance Video, Best Choreography and Viewer's Choice, all for "Gettin' Jiggy wit It".[19] "Miami" won the award for Best Male Video and received nominations for Best Special Effects and Best Cinematography at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.[20]

Smith won his third and fourth Grammy Awards for his work on Big Willie Style – "Men in Black" won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards in February 1998,[21] and Smith retained the award the following year at the 41st Grammy Awards, when he won for "Gettin' Jiggy wit It".[22] At the 26th American Music Awards in January 1999, he was nominated in the categories of Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist (which he lost to Eric Clapton) and Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist (which he won), while the album was nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Album and Favorite Soul/R&B Album, both of which it won.[23] Also in 1999, Smith received three NAACP Image AwardsEntertainer of the Year, Outstanding Music Video (for "Just the Two of Us") and Outstanding Rap Artist, and was named Favorite Singer at the 1999 Kids' Choice Awards.[24]

In 2000, music television network VH1 compiled their 100 Greatest Dance Songs list, including Smith's Big Willie Style single "Gettin' Jiggy wit It" at number 100.[25]

Track listing[edit]

1."Intro" 1:51
2."Y'All Know"
  • Heard
3."Gettin' Jiggy wit It"
4."Candy" (featuring Larry Blackmon and Cameo)
  • L.E.S.
  • Poke & Tone
5."Chasing Forever"
  • Poke & Tone
  • L.E.S.[a]
6."Keith B-Real I (Interlude)" 
  • Poke & Tone
  • Smith[a]
7."Don't Say Nothin'"
  • Smith
  • Toby
  • Keith Pelzer
  • L.E.S.
  • Poke & Tone
9."Yes Yes Y'All" (featuring Camp Lo)
  • Poke & Tone
  • L.E.S.[a]
10."I Loved You"
  • Townes
  • Pelzer
  • Roane
  • Toby[a]
11."Keith B-Real II (Interlude)" 
  • Poke & Tone
  • Smith[a]
12."It's All Good"
  • Townes
13."Just the Two of Us"
  • Sauce
14."Keith B-Real III (Interlude)" 
  • Poke & Tone
  • Smith[a]
15."Big Willie Style" (featuring Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes)
  • L.E.S.
  • Poke & Tone[a]
16."Men in Black"
  • Poke & Tone
Total length:54:12
Sample credits[1]


Personnel credits adapted from liner notes.[1]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[26] 26
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[27] 9
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[28] 13
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[29] 26
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[30] 13
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[10] 9
French Albums (SNEP)[9] 5
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[31] 20
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[32] 17
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[33] 8
Scottish Albums (OCC)[34] 24
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[35] 10
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[36] 21
UK Albums (OCC)[6] 9
UK R&B Albums (OCC)[37] 1
US Billboard 200[8] 8
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[38] 9


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[39] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[40] 6× Platinum 600,000^
France (SNEP)[41] 2× Gold 200,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[42] Platinum 15,000^
Sweden (GLF)[43] Gold 20,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[44] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[45] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[46] 9× Platinum 9,000,000^
Europe (IFPI)[47] Platinum 1,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Big Willie Style (Media notes). Will Smith. Columbia Records. 1997. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hunter, James (November 24, 1997). "Will Smith: Big Willie Style". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 17, 2007. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  3. ^ Hunte, Justin (December 18, 2012). "Jamie Foxx Says Being Called the N-Word Growing Up Prepared Him for "Django Unchained"". HipHopDX. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Big Willie Style - Will Smith". AllMusic. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Will Smith – Men in Black". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Will Smith | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Will Smith Album & Song Chart History". Billboard Hot 100 for Will Smith. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Will Smith Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  9. ^ a b " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  10. ^ a b " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  11. ^ Mayfield, Geoff (December 25, 1999). "Top Pop Albums of the '90s". 1999: The Year in Music. Billboard. p. YE-20. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Certification Criteria". Gold & Platinum. Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  13. ^ "1999 Albums". Accreditations. Australian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Certified Awards". British Phonographic Industry. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2015.  Note: User must manually search for "Will Smith" using the search function.
  15. ^ "Search Results for "Big Willie Style"". Gold/Platinum Searchable Database. Music Canada. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Farber, Jim (January 17, 2015). "Big Willie Style". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Will Smith". Robert Christgau. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  18. ^ "1997 MTV Video Music Awards". Rock on the Net. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  19. ^ "1998 MTV Video Music Awards". Rock on the Net. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  20. ^ "1999 MTV Video Music Awards". Rock on the Net. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  21. ^ "40th Grammy Awards". Rock on the Net. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  22. ^ "41st Grammy Awards". Rock on the Net. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  23. ^ "26th American Music Awards". Rock on the Net. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Will Smith". Rock on the Net. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  25. ^ "VH1: 100 Greatest Dance Songs". Rock on the Net. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  26. ^ " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  27. ^ " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  28. ^ " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  29. ^ " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  30. ^ "Will Smith Chart History (Canadian Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved April 11, 2015.
  31. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Phononet GmbH. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  32. ^ " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  33. ^ " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  34. ^ 26, 1999/40/ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  35. ^ " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  36. ^ " – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  37. ^ 26, 1999/115/ "Official R&B Albums Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company.
  38. ^ "Will Smith Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  39. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1999 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved December 26, 2017. 
  40. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Music Canada. 
  41. ^ "French album certifications – Will Smith – Big Willie Styles" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  42. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Recorded Music NZ. 
  43. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. 
  44. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Will Smith; 'Big Willie Style')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien. Retrieved December 26, 2017. 
  45. ^ "British album certifications – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". British Phonographic Industry.  Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Enter Big Willie Style in the search field and then press Enter.
  46. ^ "American album certifications – Will Smith – Big Willie Style". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  47. ^ "IFPI Platinum Europe Awards – 1998". International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved December 26, 2017. 

External links[edit]