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To Bel-Air, when used as a verb, means to copy a story that another Inter user has posted online and switch out the last half of the story with the lyrics to opening theme song of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” an American sitcom series starring Will Smith as a street-smart teenager from West Philadelphia who lives with his relatives in Bel Air. On 4chan, the lyrics of opening theme song is used as a popular “bait and switch” copypasta.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an American sitcom series starring Will Smith as a fictionalized version of himself, a teenager from West Philadelphia who is sent to move in with relatives in affluent Bel Air area. The first episode was aired on September 10th, 1990.
According to several references including Oh Internet, the Bel-Air copypasta originated on 4chan circa 2004 when someone on /b/ (random) board started telling a serious story but then halfway through, suddenly derailed into the lyrics of the show’s opening theme song. The earliest recognition of using “Bel-Air” as a verb can be found in an Urban Dictionary entry submitted by user Astroman on October 19th, 2006.
“Bel Air,” when used as a verb, means to copy a story that another person has posted to the Internet and replace the last half with the lyrics to “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
The opening theme song “Fresh Prince” was written and performed by Will Smith and composed by QD3. At the beginning of each episode, an abridged version of the song is used to explain the context of the show during the opening sequence. Due to the general popularity of the TV series, Smith’s song and his character had been a topic of online discussions prior to its usage in trolling, such as the YTMND tribute site “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” originally created on October 13th, 2004.
Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air
In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground was where I spent most of my days
Chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool
And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of guys
Who were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
She said ’You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air’
I begged and pleaded with her day after day
But she packed my suite case and send me on my way
She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket.
I put my walkman on and said, ‘I might as well kick it’.
First class, yo this is bad
Drinking orange juice out of a champagne glass.
Is this what the people of Bel-Air living like?
Hmmmmm this might be alright.
But wait I hear they’re prissy, wine all that
Is Bel-Air the type of place they send this cool cat?
I don’t think so
I’ll see when I get there
I hope they’re prepared for the prince of Bel-Air
Well, the plane landed and when I came out
There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out
I ain’t trying to get arrested
I just got here
I sprang with the quickness like lightning, disappeared
I whistled for a cab and when it came near
The license plate said ‘FRESH’ and it had dice in the mirror
If anything I can say this cab is rare
But I thought ‘Now forget it’ – ‘Yo homes to Bel Air’
I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8
And I yelled to the cabbie ‘Yo homes smell ya later’
I looked at my kingdom
I was finally there
To settle my throne as the Prince of Bel Air
The bait-and-switch stories soon spread over to YTMND on January 27th, 2007, when user ATape created a site with a misleading title that read “Scarlett Johansson’s Tit-slip picture.” In naive hopes of seeing pictures of naked celebrities, other users on YTMND clicked on the link, only to be immediately disappointed by a picture of Will Smith’s face covering the actress’ cleavage and accompanied by the “Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” theme song. Within days, the prank inspired dozens of derivative YTMND sites claiming to contain naked celebrity pictures, such as “Shannon Elizabeth Nude,” “Elisha Cuthbert Tits” and “Lindsay Lohan Side Boob Of The Year Award.”
With its continued spread beyond 4chan, the meme gained much notoriety as a trolling scheme throughout 2007. As the phenomenon became an increasingly common sight on 4chan imageboards and other discussion forums, the copypasta stories also became more elaborate and unsuspecting. On June 26th, 2007, geek culture blog InternetSeriousBiz reported on the booming trend of Bel-Air copypasta on 4chan in an article titled “Fresh Prince of Bel Air Fad.” Variations of Bel-Air copypastas and stories have been archived by Partyvan Wiki, an Anonymous imageboard closely affiliated with the 4chan community. Similar to the evolution of Rickroll, the Bel-Air copypasta has been also adapted into different mediums or various occasions including YouTube videos, 4chan combo threads and IRC chats among others.
A “Bel-Air” story typically begins with an engaging hook like a confession of personal drama or legal trouble and goes in-depth with the storytelling to entice the readers, but after a few paragraphs, the topic creator suddenly transitions into the lyrics of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
at 9:45am on the morning of November 15th, 2007, at Fox News’s headquarters in New York City, there will be a brief power outage, then everything will appear to return to normal. i will have used the outage, however, to sneak myself and 4 2L bottles of potassium cyanide and a container with .5L as i combine the two deadly ingredients and release a noxious gas that will poison everyone in the lobby. people will shriek in horror, children will cry for their lives, my mom will get scared and say “You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.” I whistled for a cab and when it came near The license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror If anything I could say that this cab was rare But I thought, “Nah, forget it. Yo home to Bel-Air!” I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8 And I yelled to the cabby yo holmes smell ya later Looked at my kingdom I was finally there To sit on my throne as the prince of Bel-Air.
When I was 12 I had my first sexual experience. At the time, I lived in a little suburb outside of Cleveland and anyway, the girl next door and I were really good friends. Our parents were both gone for the day and she was over playing Transformers with me. So anyway, we kinda got.. Bored I guess? And we started playing truth or dare, which turned into ‘you show me yours, I’ll show you mine". So anyway there I Was, 12 years old, heart pounding, blood rushing in my ears, and the chick (who was a year older than me actually) takes off her panties and hikes her little skirt up. so What did I do, you ask? I whistled for a cab, and when it came near, the license plate said “fresh” and there were dice in the mirror. If anything I could say that this cab was rare, but I thought “naw forget it, yo home to bel-air!” I pulled up to the house about seven or eight and I yelled to the cabbie “yo homes smell ya later!” Looked at my kingdom, I was finally there. To settle my throne as the prince of bel-air.</small
You’ve got to help me, /b/. I’ve done something horrible. I caught my girlfriend cheating with my best friend. When I saw them together, I got so furious, I slit their throats with my pocketknife. Then, I buried the two bodies and my mom got scared And said, “You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.” I whistled for a cab and when it came near The license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror If anything I could say that this cab was rare But I thought, “Nah, forget it. Yo home to Bel-Air!” I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8 And I yelled to the cabby yo holmes smell ya later Looked at my kingdom I was finally there To sit on my throne as the prince of Bel-Air.
Prank Calling / Emailing
Another very popular example of this is calling and e-mailing Christian shows with fake confessions or questions inspired by the lyrics of the theme song or situations from the show.
Some Bel-Air enthusiasts have apparently attempted to include the lyrics of “Fresh Prince” into their academic essays and school papers, which were met by mixed responses from the grader; the authenticity of these examples remain unknown.
On August 18th, 2008, xkcd published a comic strip introducing the concept of “reverse bel-air,” which entails beginning a conversation with opening verses from the theme song and suddenly derailing into something far more serious, such as a plea to break up: