2004 - Interscope Records/Overbrook Entertainment - 68 minutes
A lot has changed for Will Smith since he released his debut album in 1989. Eight albums later, sales of 25m prove that the music industry owes Smith nothing. Now he competes in a market place that has little regard for the novelty of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, who shot to fame on our television screens, winning hearts with his cheeky behaviour and unique raps.
With 'Lost and Found', Smith serves up his own distinctive brand of feelgood rap - if there's such a thing. He makes no apologies for his diversion from the limitations of the genre, for stretching a style to suit his own messages. And although the market has changed considerably since his beginnings, Smith's ability to poke fun at himself, and the changing face of the music industry, is what keeps this album amusingly entertaining, especially with tracks like 'Mr Niceguy' and 'I Wish I Made That'.
At times a little overly political, particularly in light of the market that this is likely to appeal to, Smith seems to be all about making statements. From the tragedy of 11 September down to his own vanity, the content of this album shifts from moralistic to light-hearted, with 'Tell Me Why' questioning the unfairness of life and tracks like 'If You Can't Dance' offering a breather from the serious stuff. What at first may seem like sheer big-headedness on the part of Smith develops into not-so-subtle, yet comic, attacks on the massive personalities that front the rap industry today, making a former front-runner in music, film and television look like a total non-runner.
Since it's probably not for financial gain, we can assume that this record was released out of a need to be creative, or maybe just out of a love of the music it contains, and in that presumption lies the real charm of 'Lost and Found'. Will Smith probably isn't all that bothered about how many copies of this album he sells, which is the real snub to commerciality that his contemporaries often can't afford the luxury of. Point made if nothing else.
Tracklisting: Here He Comes - Party Starter - Switch - Mr Niceguy - Ms Holy Roller - Lost and Found - Tell Me Why (featuring Mary J Blige) - I Wish I Made That/Swagga - Pump Ya Brakes (featuring Snoop Dog) - If You Can't Dance/Slide (featuring Nicole Scherzinger of The Pussycat Dolls) - Could You Love Me - Loretta - Wave Em Off -Scary Story - Switch (R&B remix featuring Robin Thicke) - Coming to the Stage - We Won't