Tag Archives: will smith

477. Holiday Diary (Part 4) The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

The holiday diary continues and in this chapter we visited Bel Air in L.A. and so here is an analysis of the lyrics to Will Smith’s rap from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, a famous TV show (and a very serious piece of work, haha) from the 90s which was set in Bel Air itself. Topics covered: TV pop culture, racial politics, slang English.

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Episode Notes, Lyrics & Vocabulary

By the way, these are flapjacks, just in case you were wondering. Yum.

Flapjacks (these ones are made with honey, oats and peanut butter) Click the pic for the recipe.

Flapjacks (these ones are made with honey, oats and peanut butter) Click the pic for the recipe.

Did you get The Fresh Prince of Bel Air on TV in your country?

I used to watch the TV show a lot when I was younger (in the 90s).

Yes, the Fresh Prince is American English but I consider it also to be global English and you should too. Also, I think everyone should know or at least be able to repeat one or two of the lines from this rap, right?

So let’s listen to it and analyse some of the lyrics.

It’s not even a great rap, that’s the thing! It’s just a laugh! It’s not exactly the Wu Tang Clan or anything… Anyway…

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – language analysis & cultural commentary

Summary of the story 

This rap basically sets up the scenario of the show. Did you work out the details of the story?

Will Smith is an ordinary guy from a rough part of Philadelphia. The area where he lives is too rough and dangerous, so his mum decides he has to move in with his aunt and uncle, who happen to live in Bel Air, in Los Angeles. The aunt and uncle are rich and successful. The uncle (Uncle Phil) is a top lawyer. This is obviously possible, but quite rare.

Is it just a funny TV show, or is it about race relations and racial politics in the USA?

I’m not sure I am fully qualified to talk about racial politics in the USA. The fact is, despite the American dream which says anyone can make it, it appears to be much harder for a black guy to become a millionaire than for a white guy to do it. I’m not saying why that is, I’m just saying it. In fact, I’m reporting it as something I’ve heard Chris Rock say, so fine – not my words, the words of Chris Rock.

“Don’t hate the player, hate the game”.

“You don’t get plaques for getting rid of plaque.” (two meanings of the word ‘plaque’ – listen to hear the explanations)

“The black man gotta fly to get something the white man can walk to.”

“I had to host the Oscars to get that house.”

Lyrics

Listen to the episode to hear my language analysis and some comparisons with British English.

I’ll tell you which bits of vocab are “standard” (i.e. not specific slang – the stuff everyone should know) and “slang” (i.e. the stuff that’s more specific to the informal English you might hear from Will Smith or the social group of the time)

Fresh Prince of Bel Air – Rap, Long version
Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
So just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air

In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground was where I spent most of my days
Chilling out, maxin‘ relaxin’ all cool
And all shootin 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 [UK – mum, USA – mom]
She said ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air’

I begged and pleaded with her day after day
But she packed my suit case 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 juice out of a champagne glass.
Is this what the people of Bel-Air living like?
Hmmmmm this might be alright.

But wait I hear they’re prissy, bourgeois, all that
Is this the type of place that they just send this cool cat?
I don’t think so
I’ll see when I get there
I hope they’re prepared for the prince of Bel-Air

Well, the plane landed and when I came out
There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out
I ain’t trying to get arrested yet
I just got here
I sprang with the quickness like lightning, disappeared

I whistled for a cab and when it came near
The license plate said “FRESH” and it had dice in (on) the mirror
If anything I could say that this cab was rare
But I thought ‘Nah, forget it’ – ‘Yo, holmes to Bel Air’

I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8
And I yelled to the cabbie ‘Yo holmes, smell ya later
I looked at my kingdom
I was finally there
To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air

Songwriters: SMITH, WILLARD C. / TOWNES, JEFFREY
Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Other vocab

We drove around in Bel Air for a bit looking at houses like weird stalkers.

They’re huge and ostentatious (displaying wealth, showing off).

You get the impression that these people live in a bubble.

We came across Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s house which is unfinished.

Apparently they’re having problems with their neighbours who claim the house is obstructing their view.

I am not surprised because it is a but of a  monstrosity.

Apparently they are getting sued by the neighbours or something. I think they’re claiming that it’s interfering with their enjoyment of their property.

Driving back down we went past another massive house and we could see helicopter rotor blades above the hedge. Someone’s got a helipad on their property. Mental.

Then we swung past the Scientology buildings again on the way home.

To be continued…

169. A Cup of Tea with Daniel Burt (Part 1)

[1/2] Daniel Burt is a journalist, comedy writer and performer from Melbourne, Australia. He writes for two big newspapers in Australia, he worked as an intern at Late Night with David Letterman, he has his own page on Wikipedia and in his work he has interviewed Matt Smith, David Tennant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, which means he has met 2 Doctor Whos Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and The Hobbit! Wow.  In this episode you can listen to us talking about diverse topics such as Australia’s relationship to The Queen & The Commonwealth, his work as an entertainment journalist, his time living in New York, the David Letterman show, Will Smith, show business, and zombies…

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I’m very pleased to have Daniel on the podcast for a number of reasons:
a) He is a bright, witty guy with lots of things to say, and he can talk the hind legs off a donkey (not literally, that’s just an idiom which means he can talk and talk!)
b) He is from Australia, so you can listen to his genuine Aussie accent and hear some authentic Australian English.
c) He has met Sherlock Holmes, Bilbo Baggins, Doctor Who and others.

Daniel is noteworthy enough to have his own page on Wikipedia. Click here to read it.

Daniel is a writer so naturally uses a lot of colourful language, descriptive vocabulary and idiomatic expressions. He also speaks pretty quickly in an accent that you might not be familiar with so listen closely. A transcript should arrive before too long but if you have any questions about words or phrases from this episode, please leave them in the comments section, with a time-code. ;)

This is a two part podcast. In part 1, this one, Daniel and I talk about these things:
The Zombie Apocalype
– Is my apartment safe?
– Would Daniel survive a zombie attack? Is he too complacent?
– Are people who like zombies all loners?
– Is Luke a loner?

Daniel’s Coin-dropping Habits
– Why can’t Daniel hold onto coins when shop assistants give him change?
– Why does he always drop coins onto the floor?
– Is it because Australian notes are so shiny and slippery, that the coins just slide off?

– Or is it just because he is socially awkward or nervous for some reason?
The Queen on Australian money
– How does Daniel feel about it?
– What’s the role of The Queen in Australian life?
– Will Australia leave the commonwealth and become fully independent?
Daniel’s work as an entertainment journalist
– Does he really have a Wikipedia page about him?
– What was it like living in New York?
– What was it like working for David Letterman?

Seeing Will Smith in the audience at a Parisian cabaret show
– Did he enjoy the show?
– What was the audience’s reaction to seeing Will Smith in the crowd?
– Did it affect the performance?
– What are the secrets of show business?
-And what does “getting jiggy with it” actually mean?

I’ve divided this into two episodes. So, stay tuned for details about his meeting with Sherlock Holmes, The Hobbit and Doctor Who in part 2.

Our conversation begins pretty quickly after we’d already been talking for about half an hour before turning on the microphone. Let me give you some context so you can hit the ground running.

Before turning on the microphone, we were talking about some of our favourite TV shows. I mentioned that I watch The Walking Dead, which is a show about zombies. I like zombies and that kind of thing, I’m sick and twisted in that way. Daniel doesn’t watch the show, and he isn’t a big zombie fan. He said he thought you’d need to be a bit of an idiot to get bitten by a zombie, because they’re so slow. Surely you’d see the zombie coming, and you’d just get out of the way, quite casually. I disagreed, and explained that getting bitten by a walker is easier than you might expect. Zombies might seem slow, but if you get complacent – over confident and too relaxed, that’s when you might be caught by surprise. If a zombie is walking towards you, he’s pretty slow so you might think you’re safe, but they’re unpredictable. What might happen is that the zombie gets about 3 metres away, and gets excited because he can smell your brains, and he trips slightly and starts to fall forwards. This means that his falling increases his speed and the momentum carries him to you faster than you expected. The next thing you know, you’ve got a zombie on top of you, and while you’re trying to deal with him, another one might have arrived behind you quietly, without you realising, and then you’re bitten, double bitten by two members of the undead. Then, later on, you’re a zombie too. Uhhh brains! Daniel didn’t realise this could happen. I reassured him, by explaining that up in my flat we would be quite safe from zombies because I’m up on the 6th floor, and my door is very strong. But that you still shouldn’t get complacent, even then. You can never be too safe from zombies, because, well, anything can happen. For example, let’s say, on the other side of the city, some guys have managed to escape from a zombie infested building by flying off the roof in a helicopter. “Ooh, that was close – good thing we had this helicopter!” But one of the guys in the chopper has been bitten, and he didn’t tell the others! He was too ashamed, too embarrassed. He kept it secret. Big mistake! Within minutes, he’s turned into a zombie, and he starts attacking the pilot. Trying to eat his brains. Horrible! The pilot gets bitten and he turns into a zombie too. Now you’ve got a zombie flying a helicopter. In the confusion the helicopter crashes onto the roof of my building – the pilot and passengers are all zombies, and they crawl from the wreckage and climb through a hole in the wall, into my living room, and Daniel gets bitten. Not me of course, I’d be ready with a cricket bat or a hammer or something. Maybe a crossbow. It would be tough, but I’d deal with them. Daniel though – he’d be beyond dead at that point, the poor guy. And why? Because he got complacent. Or zombies could manage to get to the 6th floor in a lift, by accident. Or just thousands and thousands of zombies could surround my building, and eventually break in by smashing all the windows and doors. Don’t worry though, it’s very unlikely to happen… or is it?…
So, that’s some context to the conversation I was having with Daniel before starting the recording. Now you can enjoy some chat with my Aussie mate Daniel. Enjoy!

Daniel’s Video Showreel

In part 2:
Daniel’s move to London
Cliches about Australian people
Typical Australian English phrases
Australian pronunciation
The Australian character and national identity
Australian politicians
The future of Australia & Australia’s image of itself
Sport & competition
Interviewing Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), Matt Smith & David Tennant (Doctor Who)