This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):
Five things you need to know about this album:
1) Over the years, rapper and actor Will Smith has gone from a sitcom star to a movie action hero to an Oscar nominee for his role in Ali.
2) The arc of Smith’s musical career has paralled that of his acting, as he has moved from lightweight ditties like Parents Just Don’t Understand to chart-topping hits like Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It to Born to Reign, his third and most serious solo album.
3) With the help of collaborators including hip-hop trio Tra-Knox, Smith stretches his artistic legs on Born to Reign with the inclusion of harder-hitting grooves, edgier lyrics, some disco, a slice of reggae and even a Ricky Martinesque Latin raveup called I Can’t Stop.
4) Despite his adventurousness, Smith also revisits his lightweight old-school vibe on cuts like Block Party and includes the obligatory theme song to his new Men in Black sequel (the funk-rocky Black Suits Comin’).
5) Born to Reign is no Ali, but it is a contender for Smith’s best album to date.