Album vs. Album #2: Homebase vs. Code Red
A lot of people seem to gloss over Will Smith’s early career as a rapper. I think its because the earlier stuff he was mostly known for in the 80s were pretty sanitary. His songs were more child-friendly. Rock The House was his debut with his partner in crime DJ Jazzy Jeff, which only sold 300,000 units. Their second album, He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper, made them household names. Not only did it become triple platinum, but one of the songs off the album won the first ever Grammy for a hip-hop/rap song…yeah…Will Smith made music history. Then their third album dropped, And In This Corner, which despite reaching Gold, wasn’t their best work. They took a break from music because, of course, they had to focus on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But then in 1991, they really came back with Homebase, the album that went platinum & won then another Grammy as well as numerous awards. Then in 1993, lightning struck twice with Code Red, which surprisingly went Gold. In my opinion, those last 2 albums were DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s dopest albums. But which one is doper?
Well, the first thing to look at are the lead singles: Summertime from Homebase & Boom! Shake The Room from Code Red. Both of these singles showed Will Smith in a different light. Summertime was a more chill, laid back Will Smith, whereas Boom! Shake The Room was a more hardcore Will Smith. Both of them fit the atmosphere of Hip-Hop in their respective times. In 1991, Summertime came out when Hip-Hop was still all about having fun & being chill. In 1993, Boom! Shake The Room came out when Hip-Hop was starting to crossover into the hardcore/gangsta territory. But if I had to choose which one was better, I’d have to say Summertime because it was pretty much what Will Smith was, whereas Boom! Shake The Room was more of an attempt to adapt.
Homebase - 1
Code Red - 0
Next, it’s the album’s production. Homebase was produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Hula & K. Fingers (not sure who they are ether). Code Red was produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Hula & K. Fingers, Teddy Riley, who created the New Jack Swing sound of the late-80s to early-90s, Mr. Lee, who helped to launch the career of R. Kelly, & Pete Rock, the most influential & iconic producers of all time. The production of the songs on Homebase were fun & dance-like, which worked well with Will Smith. However, the production of the songs on Code Red helped to elevate the level Will Smith was on, which worked better for him. As well as being fun & dance-like, they were also hardcore, edgy &, well, true Hip-Hop.
Homebase - 1
Code Red - 1
Now the tie breaker…the lyrical content. In a nutshell, Homebase is mostly about Will being a ladies man with songs like The Things That You Do, The Boy Is Smooth, Ring My Bell, & A Dog Is A Dog. He also had songs that returned to his original storytelling style, like Who Stole The DJ & You Saw My Blinker, & dance songs like Trapped On The Dance Floor & Dumb Dancin’. I’m All That was a braggadocious type song which was a great way to start off the album, Caught In The Middle was more of a social breakdown of being caught between love & life, & of course, Summertime, which I already broke down. Now, with Code Red…the best way to summarize the album’s content is to listen to Will Smith’s acceptance speech at the American Music Awards when they won Favourite Rap Album in 1992 for Homebase. In this speech, he talks about the time they won their last AMA & they went back to Jeff’s mom’s house in Philly & despite winning an award, they were still asked by Jeff’s mom to go to the store & get some bread. Will mentions that [that] moment really grounded them & reminded them that they’re still everyday people. That best applies to Code Red because although it had songs that were fun, braggadocious & hardcore-sounding, it had songs that were smooth & grounded, which was something that Homebase was missing. & it was clear that Will & Jeff took that concept into consideration. Based on that fact alone, I’ll have to go with Code Red.
Homebase - 1
Code Red - 2
So there you have it, Code Red wins. But here’s one point that I’m gonna bring up about Code Red that I’m not gonna count. Although Code Red was an attempt to adapt to the atmosphere of Hip-Hop at the time, it still worked well for Will. Not only did Code Red show a hardcore-sounding Will, but it also showed a more lyrical Will, a Will Smith that many people don’t even care to think about because they only see his early stuff from the late-80s. Code Red was an album that was edgy without any cursing, & it could’ve made a great debut album. The vibe was great & it’s a shame that a lot of rap fans & critics gloss over this album as well as Homebase. It’s a shame that when people say that Will Smith is a better actor than he is a rapper, the only say that because they only heard his early stuff from the 80s as well as the stuff he did from the late-90s to mid-00s. My advice is to peep both of these albums & whenever people say that Will Smith is a better actor than rapper, just tell them to listen to Homebase, but most importantly, listen to Code Red. I’m The Retro Enthusiast™, I remember it so you don’t have to.2 notes
Posted on Wednesday, 19 June
Tagged as: dj jazzy jeff & the fresh prince fresh will smith homebase 1991 code red 1993 album vs. album rant rants