WATCH: Will Smith Raps a Hip-Hop Update of 'Friend Like Me' from Aladdin
Aladdin — also starring Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine — hits theaters May 24
Will Smith is giving fans a taste of what his Genie will bring to Disney’s live-action Aladdin.
The actor gave some insight into his take on the iconic character while appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Monday. After admitting that he was hesitant to take the role because Robin Williams did such a great job on the 1992 animated original, Smith says he found his in by bringing new elements into the blue magical being’s sound.
“Questlove knows this, what did it for me is I was messing with the music and there’s the song ‘Friend Like Me.’ So when we went in, I had him grab the ‘Impeach the President’ by the Honey Dippers, and he used the drums off of it,” Smith, 50, tells Fallon as Questlove immediately starts drumming the part Smith is talking about.
This prompts Smith to launch into the fan-favorite song, which now features a heavy hip-hop influence and rap verses from Smith.
Smith previously opened up about taking on the iconic role in Entertainment Weekly‘s first look cover story back in December, where he also admitted he felt trepidation.
“Whenever you’re doing things that are iconic, it’s always terrifying,” Smith told EW. “The question is always: Where was there meat left on the bone? Robin didn’t leave a lot of meat on the bone with the character.”
Instead of trying to recreate the original Genie, Smith drew from his previous roles like Independence Day, Bad Boys and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to find his version of the blue wish-granter who is trapped in a lamp before Aladdin frees him.
“I started to feel confident that I could deliver something that was an homage to Robin Williams but was musically different,” he said. “Just the flavor of the character would be different enough and unique enough that it would be in a different lane, versus trying to compete.”
He continues, “I think it’ll stand out as unique even in the Disney world. There hasn’t been a lot of that hip-hop flavor in Disney history.”
Aladdin — also starring Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine — hits theaters May 24.