Close X


The slap heard around the world

Violence is never the answer. But we understand

LiFTED | Marcus Aurelius | 29 Mar 2022

The Oscars are usually a pretty staid affair for Hip Hop heads. Last year, Eminem performed his song ‘Lose Yourself’ which won the Best Original Song Oscar 17 years ago for no real reason whatsoever. In 2006, Three 6 Mafia won the Best Original Song Oscar for the Hustle & Flow theme song, ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.’ Common and John Legend won for ‘Glory’ in 2016. Pharrell was nominated for earworm ‘Happy’ but didn’t win. That’s about it on the Hip Hop scoreboard.

Last night was very different. Two of Philadelphia’s icons, Will Smith and Questlove of The Roots, were locks to win their respective categories: Smith for portraying Richard Williams in King William, and Questlove for directing the documentary Summer of Soul. Then things got out of hand. Chris Rock, one of the best stand-up comedians in the world, and a man who has been involved in Hip Hop since its inception, was presenting the award for Best Documentary Oscar. He made a few quips and well this happened:

As Rock says in the end, that was, “The greatest night in the history of television.” If there is any event that defines the phrase ‘break the Internet,’ this was it. Within minutes Twitter was on fire. Memes were everywhere. Was this staged for ratings? Was this a work like in professional wrestling? Videos that weren't muted like the US version showed Smith yelling, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f*#king mouth,” and watching the slap in slow motion showed Rock’s face rippling showed that he really got slapped.

Think pieces were written. Did Rock go over the line by joking about Jada Smith’s alopecia? Did Smith just kill off all those years of Mr-Nice-Guy with one slap? Should they take his Oscar away for resorting to violence? Was this Philadelphia’s unofficial slogan, F*#k around and find out, in front of millions of people?

Rock ended up presenting the Oscar to Questlove for Best Documentary. Smith won the Best Actor Oscar and gave a tear-filled speech. Smith was then seen at the Vanity Fair afterparty dancing to all his songs with Oscar in hand and seemingly without a care in the world. Twenty-four hours later, both Rock and Smith have apologized for their faults and it seems that the friends will be friends again.

As a lover of stand-up comedy, Bring the Pain, Rock’s 1996 stand-up special, is one of the best there is. In one particular part, Rock talks about OJ Simpson getting off for murdering his ex-wife. He talks about him having to pay her US$25,000 a month in alimony and her boyfriend driving around in OJ’s car. He says, “I don’t think he should have killed her. But I understand.” While this is comedy, it fits the real-life incident. I don’t think Will Smith should have slapped Chris Rock in front of millions of people on stage at the Oscars. But we understand.