When Will Smith smacked Chris Rock on live television during the 94th Annual Academy Awards on March 27, people sat there in silence, stunned by what they’d just witnessed. But Smith’s longtime partner-in-rhyme and dear friend DJ Jazzy Jeff wasn’t exactly surprised.
During a recent interview with the Faq Podcast, the legendary turntablist reflected on that moment and imagined “the slap heard around the world” would’ve happened regardless of who was delivering the joke about his wife Jada Pinkett at the time.
“When it happened and I saw him walk up there, the one thing I would say – ’cause I’ve had people say, ‘Oh he wouldn’t have done that to no gangsta,’” he said. “Let me tell you something about Will. Will is somebody that cliff dove in Jamaica and couldn’t swim. Will was the person that whatever he’s afraid of, he runs to. I ain’t got that in me. I don’t have that in me at all. I’ve watched Will almost die numerous times running straight.
“Will would’ve slapped Mike Tyson. It did not matter who was there. Will would’ve got his ass beat, but he was going to do what he was going to do regardless of who it was. It wasn’t for fake. It wasn’t for show. I have to protect. If that was a grizzly bear, he would have did it. I know him.:
DJ Jazzy Jeff initially broached the subject while speaking to the hosts of Closed Sessions Legend Conversation at Dorian’s Through the Record Shop in Chicago in April. Naturally, he had Smith’s back but did note it was out of character for the Academy Award-winning actor to behave that way.
“Don’t get it twisted that it was something he was proud of,” Jazzy Jeff said. “It was a lapse in judgment, you know? I think the thing that I’ve realized is I don’t know too many people that has had the least amount of lapse of judgment than him.
“I can name 50 times that [Smith] should’ve smacked the shit out of somebody and he didn’t. So for him to have a lapse in judgment, he’s human. And I think a lot of the criticism comes from the people who don’t think people like that are human.”
Smith has since resigned from the Academy, was banned from attending any Oscars-related events for 10 years and issued a public apology to Chris Rock. He was later photographed in India on some sort of spiritual quest in an attempt to “heal.” Rock, on the other hand, refuses to address the incident unless he’s collecting a handsome payout for his story. His mother said her son is “still processing” what happened but is doing well.
Smith charged Rock onstage after he made a G.I. Jane joke about Pinkett’s hair (or lack thereof). He declined to press charges.