Will Smith Makes a Triumphant Rap Comeback at BET Awards, Igniting the Stage Two Years After the Infamous Oscars Slap Incident

Will Smith has largely stayed out of the spotlight since slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards, moments after which the Men In Black star won his first Oscar.

Will Smith performs You Can Make It at the BET Awards. Pic: Rex Features


Image: Will Smith performs You Can Make It at the BET Awards. Pic: Rex Features

Will Smith has made his first major award ceremony appearance since facing widespread criticism for slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards.

The 55-year-old Hollywood star performed his new song – You Can Make It – at the 2024 BET Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

It was a rare live appearance from the Men In Black actor, who was banned from attending the Academy Awards for 10 years following the televised slap, which occurred moments before he won his first Oscar.

For his performance, Smith stood in a circle of fire on an apocalyptic landscape, with a large sun rising behind him.

Smith opened the song by saying to the audience: “I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but whatever’s going on in your life, I’m here to tell you, you can make it.”

Lyrics to the song include: “The darker the hell you gotta endure, the brighter the heaven you get to enjoy.

“The harder the fall, the higher you soar, God opens a window when the devil closes the door.

“Believe me, they tried to bleed Will Smith, in the rearview, I see adversity was the gift.”

Smith was joined by singer and songwriter Fridayy and the gospel choir Sunday Service, who encircled him above from a high platform.

Smith’s collaborator on the song, Kirk Franklin, also came onto the stage and rapped during the song, telling the audience that no one “is on a bad chapter forever”.

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Smith closed the song with the lyrics: “We are not being punished we are forged. Dance in your darkest moments.”

Fresh Prince’s big comeback

Smith teased his upcoming album, Dance In Your Darkest Moments, last month. It comes nearly 20 years after his last studio album, Lost And Found, which he released in 2005.

Many see this as part of a well-orchestrated comeback, a feat almost as tough as his 26,000-mile trek from the South Pole to the North Pole for the Disney and National Geographic nature show he fronted, Welcome To Earth, in December.

Ahead of his song’s release on Friday, Smith shared a video of him playing the piano, with the message: “Through some of my darkest moments, music has always been there for me – to lift me and help me grow.

“It’s my humble wish that it can do the same for you and bring you all the joy and light you deserve.”

Pic: Columbia Pictures
Image: Pic: Columbia Pictures

Smith first shot to international fame in the 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, a role he won after becoming the first rapper to win a Grammy award, in 1989 for his song alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff, Parents Just Don’t Understand.

The pair went on to record five hip-hop albums together, with hit songs including Summertime and Boom! Shake The Room.

As a solo artist, he released four albums, with number-one tracks including Getting’ Jiggy Wit It and Wild Wild West, and winning four Grammys.

Big win, and big mistake

Smith went on to conquer Hollywood, starring in blockbuster movies including Bad Boys, Men In Black and Independence Day, along with his critically acclaimed performance as Muhammad Ali in the 2001 film Ali, which earned him the first of three Oscar nominations.

But he did not receive Academy recognition until 2022, taking home best actor for his role in the sports drama King Richard, in which he played Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams.

However, his biggest career achievement to date was overshadowed by his on-stage actions.

Now, two years after the event, this rare stage appearance follows the success of his latest movie, Bad Boys: Ride Or Die, which has stormed the box office, and taken over $330m (£260m) globally.

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