You know all about how the fictional Will Smith’s life got flipped, turned upside down in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but it’s easy to forget that real-life Hollywood superstar Will Smith’s life took just as dramatic a turn. Before he became one of the biggest sitcom stars of the ’90s — and shortly after, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood —Will Smith was just one-half of a rap duo who had the biggest flop of their short-lived career. Broke, humiliated, and in trouble with the IRS, Smith didn’t even consider getting into acting. Until he met the real-life Prince of Bel-Air.
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Wow. After watching The Carter, the new all-access documentary on Lil’ Wayne, one might consider recommending it as the best doc about a hip hop icon ever. The problem with this superlative lies in its limitation. Similar to labeling Lil’ Wayne a rapper—even “the best rapper alive” as many profess—and leaving it at that, labeling this a great hip hop doc restricts it to the confines of a niche or genre coated in personal taste and stigmas. That is to say The Carter is foremost a fascinating portrait of a remarkable, modern artist and celebrity who has cooked most if not all bridges for comparison.
In The Carter we experience the exact moment when Wayne calmly finds out, overseas and perma-high, that his latest album, Tha Carter III, has sold one million plus physical units in its first week. As his friend and manager, Cortez Bryant, tells the camera, Wayne now undisputedly ranks with the world’s top pop stars; and this doc ranks with the best of the year. It’s also highly difficult to cite precedent for a film so privy to a superstar’s love of, and possible dependency on, drugs. Clearly, the recent, This Is It, failed in this regard.
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