’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”
The one hundred seventeenth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” by Will Smith. Now better known as an actor, Smith began his career as half of the Hip-Hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince in the ’80s. The pair scored eight Hot 100 entries from 1987 to 1993, the biggest and best being 1991’s “Summertime,” which peaked at No. 4. Simultaneously and afterward, Smith gained popularity as star of the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air from 1990 to 1996. His celebrity then grew brighter through lead roles in blockbusters like 1996’s Independence Day and 1997’s Men In Black. So by the time “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” was released in 1998, Smith was an A-list celebrity who enjoyed widespread goodwill.
Smith had preceded “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” with the very successful 1997 track “Men In Black” from the film of the same name. “Men In Black” did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100 due to the chart’s dumb rules at the time, but it did spend a month on top of the Airplay chart. That track would later appear on Smith’s first solo album, Big Willie Style, off of which “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” served as the first commercial single. “Jiggy” would launch a sizzling but not particularly long-lived chapter in Smith’s music career, as it was followed by a series of hits over the subsequent 18 months, including “Just The Two Of Us” (peak: 20), “Miami” (peak: 17) and his only other No. 1 hit, “Wild Wild West.” His most recent hit was 2005’s underrated “Switch” (peak: 7). (He reunited with DJ Jazzy Jeff in late 2017 and released “Get Lit,” which was widely panned or ignored.)
“Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” features a well-known “na na na na na na na” hook, sampled from 1971’s “Sang And Dance” by the Bar-Kays, and an instrumental from 1979’s “He’s The Greatest Dancer” by Sister Sledge. The lyrics talk about Smith’s good fortunes, suggested through repeated lifestyle signaling and brand name dropping.
Take a few minutes to listen again to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”:
That’s a cute, fun track. It’s perhaps odd that I (John), despite never owning this song, for some reason know almost all the words. Says a lot about how clear, catchy, appealing and accessible this song is — and how overplayed it was. The track is laden with hooks, and overall it’s an energizing number with a positive spirit. Will Smith is in his own category as an emcee, projecting a wholesome, coolly confident demeanor, while avoiding being too painfully corny.
Does it hold up? “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” certainly sounds out of place compared with today’s Hip-Hop. But most of the kids on Do They Know It? knew it, which is a good sign. The video has about 37 million views as of this writing, which is OK but not amazing. To our surprise, it’s only the fourth-most-popular video on Will Smith’s Vevo channel, behind the aforementioned hits “Men In Black,” “Switch” and “Miami,” although the tallies are so similar they could be considered virtually tied. Smith doesn’t seem to get discussed much among Hip-Hop enthusiasts and historians. We see a lot more commentary discussing the relative merits of trailblazers like The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Eminem and Missy Elliott than Will Smith. He doesn’t seem to be regarded as a particularly innovative, influential or skillful rapper, but he delivers his lines well on “Jiggy” in our humble opinion.
Dopeness: 4 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?