In 1989, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince won the first-ever rap Grammy for their lighthearted single "Parents Just Don't Understand
." That song's video also did very well on MTV, with Will Smith proving quite adept in front of a camera. When it was finally time for a network TV show to incorporate hip-hop culture, Smith was an obvious choice.
The show was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
, starring Smith as a streetwise kid from Philadelphia whose mother sends him to the wealthy enclave of Bel-Air, California to live with his aunt and uncle. It aired on NBC, which also had The Cosby Show
, a wildly successful sit-com about an upper-class black family.
NBC had Smith and his musical partner DJ Jazzy Jeff write the theme song, which became unquestionably their most popular work. The duo had no trouble writing it: Jeff programmed some beats and Smith came up with lyrics that explained the show's concept in succinct rhymes (Jeff claimed it took them only 15 minutes).
The show earned decent ratings in its six seasons on the air, but attracted a young audience coveted by advertisers. Long after its run, it stayed on the air in syndication.