“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” lyrics and theme song will probably go down as the most well-known lyrics in the history of introducing television shows. On top of being the launch pad for the super star career of Will Smith, one of the most watched sitcoms of all-time, a piece of NBC’s “Must See TV” campaign in the 1990s, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was also a huge bridge when it came to Black television and mainstream audiences.
Particularly, the show came on the air toward the end of the “The Cosby Show”, which was the first majorly successful Black TV shows to be watched by Black and white people alike. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” would go on to take the mantle after “The Cosby Show” ended, as it was universally loved and celebrated, largely in part to the charms of Will Smith.
Of course, it was probably no coincidence that a Black TV show’s hip-hop grounding resonated with the masses. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” lyrics and show arrived during the early 90s, when rap music was just starting to become mainstream and white America was awakening to the cultural phenomenon that was hip-hop. Thus, the rapper-turned actor Will Smith, and his catchy theme song was no doubt a natural way to go for the show’s opener. The proof is that the song, and its lyrics, have stood the test of time, with everyone from Baby Boomers to Gen Z able to recite the lyrics on cue!
But in case you forgot them, below are the lyrics to the full version of the theme song. Before that, we’ll break down the short vs. long version. And after the lyrics, we will explain some of the more infamous lines from the song.
The Short Version of the Theme Song
Long-story short, the short version of theme song was used on the overwhelming majority of the episodes for the series. It was probably more of a time-thing than anything else. As a result of the short-versions prominence, however, most people don’t know the lyrics to the full theme song. In our lyrics below, we’ll note where the short version is in play, so you can see the difference for yourself.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Lyrics
Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air
In West Philadelphia, born and raised
On the playground was where I spent most of my days
Chillin’ out maxin’, relaxin’, all cool
And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of guys who were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
She said, “You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air”
I begged and pleaded with her day after day
But she packed my suitcase and sent me on my way
She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket
I put my Walkman on and said, “I might as well kick it”
[Stopping point for the short-version]
First class, yo this is bad
Drinking orange juice out of a champagne glass
Is this what the people of Bel-Air living like?
Hmm, this might be alright
But wait, I hear they’re prissy, bourgeois, all that
Is this the type of place that they just sent this cool cat?
I don’t think so
I’ll see when I get there
I hope they’re prepared for the prince of Bel-Air
Well, the plane landed and when I came out
There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out
I ain’t trying to get arrested yet, I just got here
I sprang with the quickness like lightning, disappeared
[Resuming point for the short version]
I whistled for a cab and when it came near
The license plate said, “Fresh” and it had dice in the mirror
If anything I could say that this cab was rare
But I thought “Nah, forget it, yo, holmes to Bel Air”
I pulled up to the house about seven or eight
And I yelled to the cabbie, “Yo holmes, smell ya later”
I looked at my kingdom
I was finally here
To sit on my throne as the prince of Bel-Air
The Lyrics Explained
So let’s break down key lines from the song.
- “In West Philadelphia born and raised” – Stands to reason that this is where the titular character was from, but in case you didn’t know, this is also where the real life Will Smith is from. He grew up in the Wynnefield part of West Philly, where he was raised by his mother and father, Caroline and Will Sr, respectively.
- “Chillin’ out maxin’, relaxin’, all cool” – This is a heavily debated line. Some people think Smith is saying maxin’, relaxin’, while others maintain that the phrase is “max and relax and all cool”. Obviously, we lean to the former, noting that “maxin” and “relaxin” were very common terms in hip-hop during the decade.
- “When a couple of guys who were up to no good” – This line makes it seem as if Will was not at all at fault for the trouble he got into. In video of the song, it’s clear that Will is playing basketball at the wrong spot, so he probably wouldn’t have had any issues if he wasn’t “shootin’ some b-ball” in front of a gang. In the dramatic remake of the series, “Bel-Air”, they go on to depict the main character actually playing a much larger role in the trouble that ensued.
- “There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out” – There’s always been some question about who is being referred to here. Many have speculated that the so-called “cop” was Jefferey in his usual butler attire. However, it’s unlikely that Will would confuse a butler for a cop. Thus, we tend to go with the fact that this was likely a hired driver in a suit that likely took on the appearance of a well-dressed plains-clothed officer.
- “Drinking orange juice out of a champagne glass” – This was obviously a line used to show both the juxtaposition between Will’s new and old worlds, and to show how wet behind the ears Will was when it came to understanding how the “other half” approaches life.
- “I whistled for a cab and when it came near” – This is the part where the short-version of the theme song picks back up. This is made interesting because if you only listened/watched the short version of the song, then it would lead you to believe that Will took a cab all the way from Philly to Los Angeles. Honestly, there are probably few who didn’t think that was the case for at least a period of time. Obviously, that is debunked by the longer version of the song.
- The license plate said, “Fresh” and it had dice in the mirror” – Perhaps one of the most telling lines of the song, this foretold that he was not going to simply assimilate to his new surroundings, but that he was going to borrow from his cabby’s approach and be a breath of “fresh” air to his new home.
Who created and wrote The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Theme song?
Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff (aka, Jeffrey Townes), and Quincy Jones are credited for writing and composing the song, which was done in conjunction with Universal Music.
Relatedly, Quincy Jones is noted as having sad that the series as a whole helped rap music make its way into pop culture. It’s hard to argue with that, as Jones’ decision to lead with rap as the introduction to the series undoubtedly led to there probably being no other rap song on Earth during the 90’s that white people knew the lyrics to more than this one.
DJ Jazzy Jeff
We’d be remiss not to bring up the fact that this song is also performed by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith’s real life collaborator. He’s infamously noted for having said it took just 15 minutes to come up with the “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” lyrics and theme song”.
Other Theme Songs of Note
At BlackOakTV, I don’t know if we can top what Smith, Jones, and Jazzy Jeff created with this masterpiece. However, if there is one song from a BlackOakTV original that really stands out to us, it is the one from The Closet B!tch, which is a must watch show, with an introduction theme to match!