As a part of the promotion for his new album, legendary rapper and business, man Jay-Z has been sharing “Footnotes,” mini documentaries that accompany each new video release from 4:44. And in “Footnotes for Adnis,” Jay and some other big name celebrities, including Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and comedian Chris Rock, discuss their experiences with fatherhood, both as children and parents. The video is unsurprisingly emotional and one of the most insightful moments comes from none other than the Fresh Prince himself: Will Smith. In “Footnotes”, Smith shares a story about his daughter that forced him to look at himself and the man who raised him.
The story involves Smith’s daughter Willow and her hit song “Whip My Hair.” After the song blew up, Willow began touring, but she quickly realized she just wanted to go home. Only five concerts into a 35-concert tour, Willow told her dad she wanted to stop. But Smith told her no, hoping to teach her a lesson about perseverance. Instead, Smith ended up learning a lesson in respecting your kid’s wishes when Willow protested his decision by shaving her head bald in the middle.
According to Smith, that was a turning point in his parenting. Smith explains, “I’m looking at that girl and I’m like, ‘Got it. I understand. You will not have this trouble out of me ever again. Let’s go, baby. We can go.’”
Smith also said he believes that he was emulating his own father’s brash parenting style, despite his complicated relationship with his dad. “For me, it was that soldier that was pushing and wasn’t paying any attention whatsoever to what was going on emotionally with this beautiful little creature in front of me,” says Smith. “That was the first part of the collapsing of my father’s suit that I was wearing that wasn’t mine.”
Previously, Smith has referred to his father as “tough but not tyrannical” and so he found himself taking a similar hard-line approach to parenting. But once he saw his daughter stand up to his “tough love,” he realized the most important thing was just being as supportive of a dad as possible to his kids.