Will Smith explains the old school hip-hop connection to 'Aladdin'

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney StudiosWill Smith faced a huge challenge portraying the Genie in the new live action adaption of the 1992 animated movie, Aladdin.  But and he says he became more comfortable when he discovered a hip-hop connection to the film.

“The Fresh Prince” follows in the footsteps of the late Robin Williams, who created the role 27 years ago. Smith tells Variety a song that Williams performed on the original soundtrack appealed to his roots as a rapper.

“The music is really how I saw my in to be able to play the Genie,” Will says. “That first day messing around with ‘Friend Like Me,’ I noticed that it was in the BPM range of old-school hip-hop. So when I started playing with it, it was like, oh man, this really lends itself to a tempo and to flavor that I really understand.”

The original “Friend Like Me” by Williams was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Smith says once he noticed the similarity to hip-hop, he was able to record the track in his own style while paying tribute to the iconic comedian.

“So that showed me how I could pay homage to Robin and not change the song so much so people would have the nostalgic value but then also be able to, you know, come with my own flavor,” Smith says.  

The 50-year-old rapper/actor says he hopes that the audience will accept how the new Aladdin is not the same as the 1992 version.

“The biggest challenge was being able to find a way to not make it jarring and disturbing by how different it would be,” he comments. “To make people feel at home while they were getting something new and special.”

Aladdin opens in theaters today.

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