Picks and Pans Review: Homebase

updated 09/02/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/02/1991 01:00AM

D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

Maybe being a TV star on Fresh Prince of Bel Air has changed the royal rapper (who used to be skinny Philadelphian Will Smith). The Prince's new record with cohort Jazzy Jeff leans to the cynical—it certainly betrays none of the goofy hip-hop humor that marked previous hits like "Parents Just Don't Understand."

From the first track, "I'm All That," which samples a bass riff from Rick James's "Give It to Me Baby," there's a harder edge to this album. The musical backing is more sophisticated, as on a smooth Gershwin via Kool & the Gang version of "Summertime." And check out the hip Ramsey Lewis—like groove on "This Boy Is Smooth."

The Fresh Prince remains a nimble, mellifluous rapper—listen to "Trapped on the Dance Floor" with guest rappers El-Sid and Jazz Fresh. But what happened to his sense of humor? "You Saw My Blinker" could have been a funny tale about a car accident akin to "Who Stole My Car?" from the previous JJ-FP record. Instead it's a mean-spirited diatribe.

The Fresh Prince explains his tougher stance on one song: "In the past I chose to make people laugh/ And I was criticized for that/ Some called me soft/ Some called me whack." Hey, adopting a new attitude is all well and good, but what the world doesn't need now is another boastful rapper.

And on this record, when the Fresh Prince isn't carrying on about what a superior wordsmith he is, he's bragging about his prowess as a lover ("I'm a Prince/ I deserve a harem," he brays in "A Dog Is a Dog"). At one point he likens himself to Billy Dee Williams. No laughing. Since his TV coronation, the Fresh Prince won't tolerate levity. (Jive)

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