Will Smith returns to music with uplifting BET Awards 2024 performance of ‘You Can Make It’

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USA Today

Two years after the biggest controversy of his career, Will Smith returns to his musical roots to get some things off his chest.

Smith, who started as a Grammy-winning rapper before finding success in TV and film, took the stage at the 2024 BET Awards on Sunday for a highly anticipated performance.

The “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” emcee delivered an uplifting number at the star-studded ceremony, which featured appearances by top hip-hop acts including Victoria MonétGloRillaIce SpiceLatto and Lauryn Hill.

It was the first live performance of Smith’s new song “You Can Make It,” a gospel-influenced track that alluded to the actor’s struggle in the public eye after he slapped comedian Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards.

“Believe me, they tried to bleed Will Smith. / In the rearview, I see adversity was the gift,” Smith rapped.

Accompanied by a rousing choir, Smith performed against a gravelly backdrop surrounded by a circle of pulsing flames. Gospel icon Kirk Franklin made a cameo, lending his soulful vocals to the cathartic song.

Smith’s performance at the BET Awards follows recent surprise appearances by the “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” star that seemed to tease a revival of his music career.

Is Will Smith making a musical comeback?

In April, Smith joined Latin superstar J. Balvin during his Coachella set to rap his iconic hit “Men in Black” and even dressed up like his character from the 1997 film.

The following month, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star rolled up to the “Ride or Die” premiere in Hollywood atop a double-decker bus with co-star Martin Lawrence. Smith gave a brief performance of his 1997 song “Miami” as an ode to his character, who’s a Miami Police detective.

Smith appears on the “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” soundtrack with a Sean Paul collaboration titled “Light Em Up.”

The actor’s most recent studio album was “Lost and Found,” released in 2005. The album sold a half-million copies and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Will Smith found fame as a rap star before his acting career

Before Smith found acting stardom with his breakout role on the NBC sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in 1990, the Oscar-winning actor made his entrance into showbiz as one-half of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

The hip-hop duo released its debut album “Rock the House” in April 1987, which peaked at No. 24 on Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop albums chart. Their 1988 follow-up, “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper,” was certified triple platinum and earned the duo a Grammy Award for best rap performance (“Parents Just Don’t Understand”).

The duo went on to release three more albums, including their last studio effort, “Code Red,” in 1993.

Smith launched his solo rap career in the late ‘90s with the release of his debut album “Big Willie Style” in November 1997. The album, which sold 9 million copies, earned Smith a No. 1 hit with “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” and a pair of Grammy Awards for best rap solo performance (“Men in Black” in 1998 and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” in 1999).

Smith’s sophomore solo album “Willennium,” released in 1999, peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. The double-platinum LP also helped the rapper score another No. 1 on the Hot 100 with “Wild Wild West,” which was featured on the soundtrack of Smith’s Western film of the same name.

Smith released two more studio albums, going on hiatus following 2005’s “Lost and Found.”