While Smith’s proclamation was supported by a $589 million
worldwide box office haul, becoming the second-highest grossing film of the
year, perhaps there was more pressure on the song. Sure, it was a good
promotional tool for the film, but it was also Smith’s first solo record and
his first new song since his 1993 album with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Code Red,
which featured his last major hit, “Boom! Shake the Room.” Having just signed a
record deal with Columbia Records, Smith was excited for the opportunity to “be
a real artist now making music,” he said, adding that he was done
with his Fresh Prince moniker.
And it was the job of “Men in Black” to kick things off.
“I’m coming back into the rap world. It’s big -- really, really
big,” Smith said on the “Men in Black” video set, which resembled the making of a
mini-blockbuster movie. Filming in a massive warehouse, there were 30
dancers clad in the special agents’ signature uniforms, lots of sci-fi
equipment and debris piles, not to mention a CGI alien that would be added in
post-production. “This is like the best video in the history of videos,” he
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“He's got a very intuitive sense about music videos and,
obviously, filmmaking. So he's brought a lot of great bits and pieces to [the
video] that have really helped flesh out the idea,” director Robert Caruso said
at the time. It was his first time working with Smith, and the filmmaker would later helm
the video for “Just Cruisin.’” “He's very collaborative about that stuff,"
Of course, the song and accompanying music video were a
massive success. The single went double platinum and later earned Smith a
GRAMMY for Best Rap Solo Performance, while the video was played in heavy
rotation on MTV and won a MTV Video Music Award for Best Video From a Film. The
single’s success pushed Men in Black: The Album to the top of
the Billboard 200 and served as the precursor to Smith’s even more successful
solo debut, Big Willie Style, which featured the chart-topping hits “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” “Just the Two of Us” and “Miami,” and made him an early
staple of Total Request Live.