“Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” by Will Smith
The term “jiggy” was established slang, originating from Brooklyn, even before Will Smith made it more popular. In days past it was actually used as an adjective, pointing to the idea of the person it is ascribed to being a flashy dresser.
However, that is not how Big Willie uses it. What he is actually referring to, generally speaking, is the term jig*b*o, a racist appellation that was applied onto African-Americans way back in the day. In other words, as used in this song, “jiggy” is short of jig*b*o. However, he is not using the word in any sort of racist context. Rather what he is alluding to, more than anything, is dancing with a rhythm reminiscent of Black folk.
Verses of “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”
In the first verse Smith does give a shoutout to fancy dress, specifically in terms of being impressed with the style of a female he’s apparently dating.
Meanwhile, the second verse is more overtly-braggadocious in nature. And Will, already being a certified star by that juncture in his career, definitely possessed bragging rights when he wanted to go there.
And the third verse can be summarized as being focused on his come-up and lyrical skills. So it’s like “getting jiggy”, even if it does primarily point to dancing, is used in different contexts. And overall it’s like if you’re poppin’ or cool or happening or slappin’ or any other way you want to put it, if you’re able to display your hypeness then it’s like you’re “getting jiggy with it”.
Chorus of “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”
But that aside, this is also another one of those classic dance songs where the verses are significantly overpowered by the chorus. Or put differently, it’s the chorus that sells the song, not the verses.
In fact speaking quite frankly, Will Smith may have been one of the most-popular rappers in the world, but he was never considered, at least by purists, as one of the best. And that is perhaps why Pitchfork for instance dubbed this one of the “seven worst U.S. No. 1 singles of the 90s”, because they actually endeavored to listen to the verses.
At the end of the day, we would venture to say that most fans of this song don’t know, or even really care, what Will Smith is actually talking about. He’s likable; the song is catchy, and it was cosigned by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld at the peak of the comedian’s fame. So for Smith at least, it actually paid off being a family-friendly rapper as opposed to one who focuses on the vices and pleasures of life.
And as for the conclusive meaning of this song, according to co-producer Poke it actually originated as a dance. And once again that’s what, in its most basic form, “getting jiggy with it” means. But ultimately it can be applied to a number of, shall we say productive activities, so long they are engaged with full vigor.
Since establishing himself as an acting superstar, some people may have forgotten that there was a point in time when Will Smith was an A list mainstream rapper. And in this case we mean mainstream in the truest sense of the word, as his music has generally been family-friendly.
And as far as once being a musical A lister, he holds the distinction of winning the first Best Rap Performance Grammy ever, in 1989. He did so via his 1988 track “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. And “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” represented his fourth Grammy overall, this time being in the category of Best Rap Solo Performance, which he earned in 1998.
The track was officially released earlier that same year on 27 January via Columbia Records. It is the third single from what was actually Will’s first solo album (i.e. sans his longtime DJ, Jazzy Jeff), which is entitled “Big Wilie Style” (1997). By this time he had already established himself as an A list actor also, having starred in arguably his best films – “Bad Boys” (1995), “Independence Day” (1996) and “Men in Black” (1997) – during the 1990s. In addition to that, he was of course also known all over the world for his starring role in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990-1996) television series.
Credits for “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”
The producers of this track are a pair of musicians known as Poke & Tone. And on top of being individually credited, their crew, the Trackmasters, are also acknowledged.
Poke and Tone also get songwriting credit, as does of course Will Smith. Additionally this Will Smith classic samples a couple of other tracks, and the creators of those tunes must be acknowledged also.
One of those is a Sister Sledge classic known as “He’s the Greatest Dancer” (1979). That song was written by the legendary Nile Rodgers alongside his former Chic cohort, Bernard Edwards (1952-1996). So they are both given credit here.
The second sample is derived from “Sang and Dance”, which is a 1971 song brought to us by The Bar-Kays. The writers of that piece are David Porter alongside The Bar-Kays themselves. So Porter is also given Jiggy credit with Bar-Kays’ members.
And finally there is one Joey Robinson Jr. (d. 2015), an associate of Sugar Hill Records, who is credited.
More Interesting Facts
Going back to the success of the song, its music video, which was helmed by Hype Williams, was nominated for a whopping five 1998 MTV VMAs. And the clip, which was filmed in Las Vegas, did take home the Best Rap Video trophy.
Meanwhile the audio itself topped the Billboard Hot 100, in addition to reaching number 3 in Britain. It charted in about 20 nations overall and achieved platinum status in the UK and Australia.
The afore-referenced episode of Seinfeld in which the titular character states “I was ready to get jiggy with it” was a season-nine episode entitled “The Reverse Peephole” (1998). And Seinfeld was so popular at the time that Will Smith actually attributed that reference to the popularity of the song becoming a hit.
In days past there was a prevailing theory that Nas, who co-wrote at least one song on “Big Willie Style”, was also a co-writer of this track. However, in 2014 Nastradamus set the record straight. According to him, he was present at the studio with Smith when the song’s recording took place and that he only just said a few lines to Will. But overall, his contribution wasn’t significant enough to actually garner a co-writing credit.