Jaden Smith: Joke or Gem?

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Miles Pressland argues that Jaden Smith is not necessarily just the humorous character that he is made out to be.

With his debut release of Syre in 2017, his recent EP Syre: The Electric Album, and the upcoming release of Erys, it’s clear that Jaden Smith wants to be taken seriously as a rapper. It’s hard to take the man seriously. We’re all aware of his ridiculous tweets, heralding his ‘Juvenile Philosophy’ with awe-inspiring quotes such as “If Newborn Babies Could Speak They Would Be The Most Intelligent Beings on Planet Earth”... somehow I doubt that Jaden. But if we look past some of his earlier comments and his general braggadocio, we actually find someone with a respectable skill on the mic and an altogether polished aesthetic and sound.

Syre, Jaden’s debut album, released in late 2017 to quite a bit of mockery. Jaden’s sheltered life as the son of a multi-millionaire actor and rapper, combined with his childish nature didn’t seem very conducive to good music. Admittedly I also felt this way. While rather ambivalent to Jaden initially, I certainly didn’t expect much from Syre.

And I won’t pretend that after listening to it, I was blown away. Jaden’s explanation of his single ‘Icon’ with lyric and discussion website, Genius, would lead you to believe he is a trailblazer, breaking down stereotypes, assumptions and changing ‘the game’. Here I have to disagree with Jaden’s self-assessment. Listening to his music (at least Syre), you won’t find an especially conscious artist like Kendrick, nor an especially provocative figure like Kanye, nor an especially formative artist like Travis Scott; instead, what you do find is good, reliable trap music.

If you’re not into the oddity and aesthetic of trap, you won’t be impressed by Jaden. His grills, excessive chains and ever-changing haircut is very reminiscent of many other trap artists, and in this sense Jaden isn’t doing anything new. Similarly, Jaden’s use of triplet beats, purple-and-blue colouring and simplified rhyming flows has been done many a time by multiple other artists.

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Thus far, it might sound like Jaden has been rightfully stereotyped, but I must now strongly disagree with that assessment.

Firstly, the production on Jaden’s Syre is excellent. This may be better attributed to the producer of many of the songs, Lido, a Norwegian record producer who has also worked with Chance the Rapper; nonetheless, one cannot deny that Jaden’s music sounds on-point. The flow is consistent, and while some of the lyrics are simple and left something to be desired, Jaden delivers them with gusto and consistent skill, making it very easily to listen to.

This was where we were after Syre was released, and Jaden could have gone multiple ways. Many I think likely remained sceptical – maybe he’ll be a one trick pony, or maybe it’s because of those producing the album behind the scenes.

Syre: The Electric Album (his second release) is small – 5 songs in total; and yet, at just 28 minutes, it has reassured my confidence that Jaden is worthy of being respected as an artist.

The first thing one will notice immediately is its slower tempo – the songs are long, and none include a sudden beat drop or change in this subtle speed. The lyrics are also second to the melody, which is throughout the EP calming and at times, almost serene. It may not immediately grip your attention like Syre can, but this EP excellently intertwines trap and ambient music, creating a style of sound that is very rarely tackled by large pop artists.

I’m still not going to completely jump on the Jaden Smith team of course. Whether he’s being iconic with this sound, I’m unsure, and one can point to other releases like Awaken, My Love! by Childish Gambino for earlier examples of this psychadelia sound in the mainstream. But nonetheless, Jaden deserves accreditation for this successful EP – it might be short, but it shows off that Jaden isn’t simply imitating a more impressive trap artist.-He is creating his own sound, and with quite some success.

This is where we now are in Smith’s musical progression. With only two releases it is still early days, but I think Jaden has certainly done enough to disrepute the scorn, and with the release of his second album coming soon, I think we should follow Jaden not as a child star trying to be a rapper, but as a serious contender who can add something to the genre.

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