Will Smith

Rapper/actor Will Smith told the audience at this year's MTV Video

Music Awards that he has managed to be successful in the music

business without singing about murder, unlike some of his fellow

hip-hop artists.

Smith has wielded a gun, though — mostly on the right side of the

law, in such summer movies as "Men in Black" and "Wild Wild West."

He was born 30 years ago today in Philadelphia. Smith learned to love

rap music while growing up in a working-class family.

Smith began making his own rap records, usually rhyming about

lighthearted subject matters with partner Jazzy Jeff

(born Jeff Townes). DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, as they

named themselves, issued their debut album, Rock the House,

in 1987. The LP introduced "transforming," a hyperkinetic form of

scratching. The duo became a popular alternative to hardcore rap.

The pair won the 1988 Best Rap Performance Grammy for the hit "Parents

Just Don't Understand." Three years later they won another Grammy for

"Summertime." DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince also had

multiplatinum success with He's the D.J., I'm the Rapper

(1988), And in This Corner ... (1989), Homebase (1991)

and Code Red (1993).

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's LPs benefited from the success

of Smith's long-running sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Smith

appeared in the 1993 film version of the Broadway play "Six Degrees

of Separation," later becoming a major movie star after starring in

the 1996 film "Independence Day."

One of the few actors to consistently generate big box-office

numbers, Smith has become one of Hollywood's most in-demand stars.

Smith's career is still red-hot, even though "Wild Wild West" didn't

perform as well as 1997's sci-fi flick "Men in Black," which featured

a hit theme song performed by Smith.

Smith issued his solo debut, Big Willie Style, in 1997. It

included "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It," this year's Grammy winner for Best

Rap Solo Performance.

"I'm really excited," Smith said at the Grammy Awards presentation.

"Things are going well, and life is just damn good."

This year Smith recorded the title track

(RealAudio excerpt)

to the soundtrack of "Wild Wild West."

In 1998 Smith starred in the movie "Enemy of the State."

Next year he is scheduled to appear in "The Legend of Bagger Vance,"

directed by Robert Redford, and a sequel to "Men in Black."

Other birthdays: Ian Tyson (Ian and Sylvia), 66; John Locke

(Spirit), 56; Onnie McIntyre (Average White Band), 54; Burleigh

Drummond (Ambrosia), 47; and Steve Severin (Siouxsie and the Banshees),

40.