Although Willennium is billed as a Will Smith album in is in actuality the 6th DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince album. The album was primarily recorded at Jazzy Jeff's production studio, "A Touch of Jazz" in Philly. Trackmasterz contributed two tracks which Sony of course released as singles, but these were the weakest songs on the album. The album was executive produced by "DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince" and it contains some fantastic production. The producers at A Touch of Jazz who created the amazing double platinum Jill Scott debut handled most of the production duties.
"I'm Comin'" sets off the album nicely. Tra Knox provide some good vocals and Will paints some awesome pictures of his return to rapping.
Oddly the 3 worst tracks of the album fill tracks 2 to 5. If these tracks were not on the album this would be a modern hip hop classic. Will2K uses a nice sample and K-Ci from Jodeci lends his vocals on the chorus.It's a time sensitive millennium celebration track that serves its purpose but has little lasting appeal. "Freakin It" has the Trackmasterz using an often used sample and Will busting his Big Willie Style bragging raps. It is an okay track and should never have been a single, the chorus is repetitive and slightly annoying. "Da Butta" again fails to impress with an average guest spot from Lil Kim that fails to elevate the track in any way.
"La Fiesta" was produced by House music legends "Masters at Work." They use a Tito Puente sample to create a real latin flavor. It is an uptempo party dance track and Will's fast raps flow really nicely. This track gets the album going and the energy is infectious.
"Who Am I" is produced by Rodney Jerkins who was a hot beat maker at the time. He produced Michael Jackson's last album and quite a few Jennifer Lopez hits. The guest emcees elevate Willennium and on this track we get rap legend MC Lyte as well as Will's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" co-star Tatyana Ali. The result is a fantastic track, with some good positive messages and a revealing rhyme about the breakdown of Will's first marriage.
"Afro Angel" features spoken word from Will's wife Jada, and is a sombre track about two young girls and a boy facing difficult decisions in a tough world. The chorus is beautiful, and Will's reflective stories have an impact.
"So Fresh" is a return to the old school with a Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince track. Biz Markie and Slick Rick join in for some old school fun. The beat and scratching from Jeff add to the flavour and everyone drops old school rhymes giving it an amazing feel. This is a definite highlight of the album and shows Will and Jeff still have it. Any fans of the old JJFP albums will appreciate this. Will even made a video for it and paid for it himself because Sony didn't want to release it as a single.
The Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince fun is continued with "Pump Me Up." This is a 1999 version of something Will and Jeff were doing in 1987 with "The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff." Jeff lets loose on the decks with a wide array of scratches set to Trouble Funk's "Pump Me Up." This is actually from their original live shows. They recorded the track for "Big Willie Style" but couldn't clear the samples in time. Will ended up spending $100,000 just to clear the samples on this one track, that shows his love for what he and Jeff do. This track could easily find itself on "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper" and it is a great ode to what they used to do.
Eve jumps on board for "Can You Feel Me." Working off a Michael Jackson sample, Will drops a great rhyme about trying to get Eve to holla at him, and Eve has a great reply. The back and forth between the two shows real chemistry, and the female vocals add to a real fun track.
"Potnas" is another Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Produced track and it is once again the best track on the album. Jazzy Jeff finally returns to the vocals on this track inspired by Whodini's friends. The three verses are directed to Will's friendship with Jeff, his relationship with Jada and his love of his fans. The track has a great chorus and builds to a fantastic crescendo with some great strings on top of the electronic sounding beat. Following on from Potnas is a fantastic interlude where Will drops a rap about when Will and Jeff was on tour and he had a run in with the boyfriend of one of his fans. It's a hard hitting track and probably deserved to be a full track in its own right. Common helped Will out with some ghostwriting on Willennium and this interlude his rhyme structure and patterns are influenced by him in the delivery which is first class.
"No More" is a solemn track about the end of a relationship. The music is amazing and suits the mood and Will delivers a slow rap filled with regret and feeling which is often missing from todays rap. The lilting piano and mix of singing and Will's raps create a brooding mood. Willennium is now on a roll with amazing track after amazing track and you can tell this was Will and Jeff at their very best.
"Uuhhh" steps things up a notch with some uptempo rhymes from Will Smith and Kel Spencer. It's a banging beat and Will delivers one of his best ever rhymes, full of clever one liners, and battle rhymes. Kel Spencer who has worked with Will on many tracks as a ghostwriter steps out of the shadows and delivers a blistering verse.
"Wild Wild West" is thrown on the album here because of Sony and Will makes fun of it actually being on the album. It seems out of place especially coming out of "Potnas," "No More" and "Uuhhh." It is a fun pop song and with Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" sampled it will definitely get your feet moving.
Willennium closes out with one of Will's best ever tracks, "The Rain." It is beautifully produced with rain sound effects, childrens vocals and the glorious vocals of Jill Scott. Will's personal rhymes about overcoming pain in the hardest of times is him at his most vulnerable. Unlike "Big Willie Style," "Willennium" showcases a wide range of emotions and this amazing track caps off a fantastic album. "The Rain" is Will Smith reaching his full potential as an artist, and is worthy of repeated listens.
"Willennium" was coming off Will's most successful album of his career. It has an array of guest stars but Jazzy Jeff and his Touch of Jazz producers created an amazing album. It is one of his very best albums and marks the true return of Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.