Born on September 25, 1968, Willard Carroll Smith II is an American actor, rapper, and producer of motion pictures. He has won numerous honors, including four Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and a BAFTA Award. He is one of Hollywood's most bankable stars as of 2023, with worldwide box office receipts of nearly $9.3 billion.
On the NBC comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990–1996), Smith played a fictitious version of himself to launch his acting career. He originally came to prominence as a member of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff, with whom he recorded five studio albums and the top 20 US Billboard Hot 100 singles "Parents Just Don't Understand," "A Nightmare on My Street," "Summertime," "Ring My Bell," and "Boom! Shake the Room" between 1984 and 1994. The US number-one singles "Gettin' Jiggy wit It" and "Wild Wild West" were featured on his solo albums Big Willie Style (1997), Willennium (1999), Born to Reign (2002), and Lost and Found (2005). For his rap performances, he has won four Grammy Awards.
On September 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, Willard Carroll Smith II was born to Caroline (née Bright), a school board official, and Willard Carroll Smith Sr., a US Air Force veteran and refrigeration engineer. His mother earned a degree from Carnegie Mellon.
He was brought up a Baptist and lived in the Wynnefield section of West Philadelphia. He has two younger siblings, the identical Harry and Ellen, as well as an older sister named Pamela.He went to Overbrook High School and a prestigious Catholic elementary school in Philadelphia called Our Lady of Lourdes. His parents split in the early 2000s after divorcing when he was 13 years old.
With his boyhood buddy Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes serving as turntablist and producer, Smith first gained notoriety as the MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. In 1985, Townes and Smith met by coincidence when Townes was missing his hype guy and performing at a house party just a few doors down from Smith's home. Smith chose to step in. Townes was displeased when his hype guy eventually arrived at the party because they had a strong chemistry.
Soon after, they made the decision to work together. Clarence Holmes, aka Ready Rock C, a friend of Smith's, joined the group as the beatboxer, turning them into a trio.