Just don’t call him the Fresh Prince.
Rapper Will Smith, whose warbling of the title track to the Columbia Pictures film “Men In Black” has reestablished the recording artist-turned-actor as a musical powerhouse, has been inked to a lucrative, multiyear recording pact with Columbia Records. He’ll drop his former rap moniker and will record under his own name.
While many singers have acted and many actors have tried their hand at recording albums, the Grammy-winning Smith has the distinction of become the only recording artist of the rock era to become highly successful in three mediums: series TV, film and music.
The deal also comes as the track — a reworking of Patrice Rushen’s 1982 hit “Forget Me Nots” — is heating up at radio, the accompanying musicvid has become an MTV staple, and the song is the first wave off a potent soundtrack that boasts cuts from D’Angelo, Ginuwine and rappers Nas and Snoop Doggy Dogg.
The soundtrack disc bows July 1.
Smith, who co-stars in “Men In Black” with Tommy Lee Jones, also settled his litigation with Zomba Music Group, the parent of Jive Records, as part of the deal.
Smith recorded for Jive as the Fresh Prince along with DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeff Townes) and had asked to get out of his pact. Sources said Zomba chief Clive Calder was instrumental in making that happen. Several Jive/Zomba acts also appear on the soundtrack.
The duo picked up the rap perf Grammy in 1988 for “Parent’s Just Don’t Understand” a track off the duo’s bow “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper.”
The deal is a coup for the Sony-owned label, which pursued Smith to help complement the film’s marketing campaign. He could release an album early next year once there is a window in his busy schedule.
In addition to co-starring last year in 20th Century Fox’s “Independence Day” (which has become the second-biggest worldwide grossing film behind “Jurassic Park”), Smith has seen his stock rise considerably since appearing in 1995 in Columbia’s “Bad Boys” the Michael Bay-helmed film co-starring Martin Lawrence.
Smith is also a three-time member of the $100 million club as he has appeared in three films that have crossed that vaunted international box office threshold: “Day,” “Made in America” and “Bad Boys.”
His next project is “Love for Hire” for Imagine/Universal, which he penned and in which he will co-star with girlfriend Jada Pinkett.
Smith co-starred in the NBC sitcom “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which ran for six years.