Will Smith as he is known now was originally just the fresh Prince, a fun loving sometimes comedic rapper who created one of the all time hip-hop songs in Summertime on the Home Base album. The residuals from that song still have to be enough to pay my salary for a year. After that, he ended up doing TV and during the run of his show released his last album as The Fresh Prince with long time friend, DJ and sometimes producer Jazzy Jeff in 1993. While listening to an old school playlist, some of the songs came up and inspired this week's Throwback Thursday album review, "Code Red".
The first song on the album, "Somethin Like Dis" is definitely in the vein of their previous music but slightly more matured with a go-go inspired sound for the party scene of the day. I'm pretty sure "Doin da Butt" was popular when this dropped as is some of the DJ Kool inspired songs so this was a fit. Then they followed up with the single which I thought was really tough although it never hit the top of the charts in the US with "Boom! Shake The Room". Now this song took the party vibe and tried to meld it more with the hip-hop of the time just a bit because this is the time the gangster rap period was officially taking hold and for a while fun music wasn't around in rap without having some serious lyrics about violence and drugs so this song represented the end of an era for party records in a few ways, in fact after this, r and b took the place of these kinds of rap songs.
There are some somewhat middling songs on the LP as it sometimes seems as though they wanted to show more depth and not just the fun going side and the concepts are decent but they aren't catchy and Will wasn't the best lyricist. "Shadow Dreams" for existence is trying to encourage the listeners to fight for what people tell them can't be done and to accomplish the impossible. It's a great concept but lyrically could have been better even though the production fits pretty perfectly in the vein of where they fit in the hip-hop hierarchy of the time. "Just Kickin It" actually kind of reminds me of Summertime a little bit but doesn't make that same magic. The title track "Code Red" sounds sort of House of Pain-ish and it tries to marry the funny story telling style with a new sound backdrop with The Prince talking about avoiding getting caught cheating by his girlfriend.
"Scream" is the same way just average, "Ain't No Place Like Home", below that, and "I'm looking for the one to Be with Me" is an alright new jack swing flavored attempt to get some more singles distance in the cruising lane like summertime was. I did enjoy "Can't Wait To Be With You" which features the strong vocals of Christopher Williams on the hook. The other real highlight of the album however was "I Wanna Rock" which is a bit of a showcase for Jeff and has The Fresh Prince rapping about how nice Jeff is after a mixed and scratched introduction.
For 1993, a year in transition and two young men at a crossroads Code Red isn't a bad album at all. It's not stellar either and can easily be listened to at any time. It's a little unfortunate some of the songs aren't just a little bit better or more energetic. Jeff was clearly getting more into the soul and jazz music at this point and Will went right along to try and show a different side but the album went too far completely I think and maybe should have used some less heavy sampling at points to bring the lightness they were known for out more. This isn't to say this was a dark or heavy album, but for this duo who was known for the party and being fun and funny it's just slightly off from that aim.