In the 1980s, Philadelphia's hip-hop scene was diverse. At one extreme was the controversial Schoolly D, who was among the founders of gangsta rap even though he wasn't as big as West Coast agitators like N.W.A. and Ice-T. And at the other extreme was DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, whose fun, lighthearted, often goofy tales were great for comic relief. Rock the House, the duo's debut album of 1987, demonstrated that Will Smith, aka the Fresh Prince, was as entertaining and amusing a storyteller as Dana Dane or Slick Rick. But unlike those New York MCs, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince weren't off-color or controversial -- in fact, their unthreatening, clean-cut image led some journalists to dub them "the Cosby kids of rap." And the Philadelphians had no problem with that; in a 1989 interview, Smith asserted that he was proud to be compared to the Cosby kids. You won't find a lot of hard-hitting social commentary on Rock the House; Smith and his partner keep things lighthearted on tunes like "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" (the hit single that sampled the I Dream of Jeannie theme and put them on the map) and "Just One of Those Days." Equally strong is "Guys Ain't Nothing But Trouble," a sequel to "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" that features female rapper Ice Cream Tee (who had a lot of potential but didn't get very far as a solo artist). Is Rock the House pop-rap? Absolutely. But for DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, lighthearted doesn't mean lightweight. In terms of rapping technique, Smith could hold his own against any of the more hardcore rappers who came out of Philly in the 1980s. This excellent LP is a classic of its kind.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: Ice Cream Tee