Will Smith hit the BET Awards stage Sunday night to perform a brand-new song, “You Can Make It,” backed by the Sunday Service Choir, Chandler Moore and Kirk Franklin.

Smith kicked off the performance standing on what was meant to look like lava, surrounded by fire and rapping lyrics including: “The darker the hell you gotta endure / The brighter the heaven you get to enjoy / The harder the fall, the higher you soar / God opens a window when the devil closes the door / Believe me, they tried to bleed Will Smith / In the rearview, I see adversity was the gift / To lift me higher gifts requires faith / So dry your eyes and then you’ll find a way / Out of the madness, out of the maze / And out of the saddest into the rays / The darkest of nights turns into day / And every storm runs out of rain.”

He was joined by Sunday Service Choir, Fridayy and Franklin on the stage for a rousing performance that drew lots of cheers from the audience, who gave him a standing ovation. The performance also featured what looked like rain, ending with the fire being put out and more inspiring lyrics rapped by Smith: “Nobody gets an easy ride / We all have a cross to bear / But there’s wisdom in that fire / And every moment of your life is a brand-new opportunity / We are not being punished, we are being forged / Dance in your darkest moments.”

Afterward, Smith tweeted a video of the performance, writing “I have returned Home! The comeback is always bigger than the setback.”

Ahead of the show, details about the song and his performance were unknown. When BET announced the news last week, it did not offer anything further beyone a quote from Connie Orlando, executive vp specials, music programming and music strategy at BET: “From his start as a rapper to the Fresh Prince to being a box office king as one of the Bad Boys, Will Smith is truly a global icon, and we are honored to welcome him back to grace the BET Awards stage. We look forward to Will adding to yet another defining night for the culture that is not to be missed.” 

However, on Friday, Smith dropped the song, featuring Fridayy and the Sunday Service Choir.

“Who hasn’t been in a dark place? Who hasn’t gone through the fire? What connects us is knowing that you are not alone,” Sunday Service posted on Instagram on Friday. “Will Smith reminds us of that common connection! That if you’re willing, there are life lessons in dark places! The journey not only produces healing, but also provides growth and wisdom.”

Smith, of course, made it big as one-half of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, with hits including “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” “A Nightmare on My Street” and “Summertime,” before launching a successful solo career (“Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” “Miami”).

He went on to star in the hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air before embarking a successful film career, with hits including the Bad Boys franchise, the Men in Black franchise and Independence Day. He has been nominated for an Oscar four times, winning best leading actor in 2022 for King Richard. That also was the year of the infamous slapping incident, wherein Smith took to the stage and physically assaulted presenter Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith later apologized and announced he was resigning from the Academy and has been banned from appearing at Academy events for 10 years.  

In April, Smith hit the stage at Coachella with J. Balvin to perform his hit song “Men in Black,” from the 1997 box office blockbuster film of the same name.

Taraji P. Henson is hosting the 2024 BET Awards, where Usher will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The show is airing live on BET from Downtown Los Angeles. As Henson noted, Smith also hosted the show in 2005, alongside Jada Pinkett Smith.

See a list of 2024 BET Awards winners.

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