Questlove revealed Smith was originally meant to be "a surprise moment" of the epic medley.
A parade of hip-hop super stars hit the stage at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the genre -- and Will Smith was nearly one of them.
On the red carpet ahead of the show, Questlove -- who produced the tribute -- was asked who he wanted as part of the performance, but unfortunately couldn't nail down.
"I'll give the spoiler alert away: Will Smith was a part of the festivities tonight, but they started shooting 'Bad Boys 4' already this week," he revealed. "There's a lot of preliminary shots that he had to do, so we had to lose Will. That was going to be a surprise moment."
Questlove reveals that Will Smith was originally supposed to perform in the #Grammys hip-hop tribute but had to back out due to production on #BadBoys4. https://t.co/ybfgwTLPJ3 pic.twitter.com/1UBa6z8kA1— Variety (@Variety) February 6, 2023 @Variety
Questlove said he thought it "was a shot in the dark" to get Will in the first place, since "he's always shooting movies." He added that, in general, it was a tricky tribute to pull together because of the schedules of everyone involved.
"We had a lot of people, and some of them have other jobs," he explained. "Even The Roots had to get Paul Shaffer to fill in for them on 'The Tonight Show' while we're out here for this week. The same with Ice-T and Latifah, LL had to leave his respective show to come and do this."
50-year anniversary of hip-hop performance at the #GRAMMYs by some of the greats including RunDMC, LL Cool J, Salt N Peppa, Ice T, Queen Latifah, Wu-Tang, Big Boi, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Nelly, Too Short, GloRilla, The Roots, and more... pic.twitter.com/HmGB0bvGZX— Leon Carrington (@LeonCarrington) February 6, 2023 @LeonCarrington
The tribute included performances from Grandmaster Flash, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Run-D.M.C., Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, Ice-T, Nelly, Public Enemy and Busta Rhymes. While Smith was MIA, his former partner in crime, DJ Jazzy Jeff, was also part of the tribute.
"I had four weeks to go through all my favorite songs of all time and by the time I was done, I presented like 27 minutes work of music," Questlove said of organizing the tribute. "They didn't laugh me out the office, but they were like, 'You gotta be more realistic.'"
"I wanted to be all inclusive of the entire culture, from its beginnings to it going global," he added. The final thing would up clocking in around 14 minutes.