Jaden Smith (full name: Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) divides opinions. From his ‘deep’ tweets and comments, to turning up to one of his mentors wedding in an all-white batman outfit (Kanye West) in his younger days (an outfit which, we find with this album he definitely isn’t shying away from), he has also always sparked debates. Now 19 years old and still trying to carve a name for himself in the entertainment industry away from just being the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, he has released his first full length LP.
‘Syre’ is by no means Jaden’s first foray into music; you may remember him rapping on Justin Bieber’s hit single ‘Never Say Never’ at the tender age of 12, but since then he’s grown as an artist within the hip-hop community, appearing on many tracks since featuring on two tracks of Childish Gambino’s ‘STN MTN / Kauai’ mixtape in 2014, being in the Netflix musical drama about the rise of hip-hop and disco in the 1970s ‘The Get Down’ whilst also releasing several EPs and impressive singles in the lead up to ‘Syre’ which raised a lot of interest for his debut LP.
‘B’ is the opening track to the album; which is followed by ‘L’, ‘U‘ and ‘E’ to complete an interesting four track introduction (‘B.L.U.E’), and begins the album with a minimalist beat and a lovely gospel inspired vocal duet from Jaden’s talented younger sister Willow Smith and Pia Mia (both of whom go un-credited on the song). Jaden himself then takes over at the peak of a vocal and instrumental crescendo, to spit a quick verse before the mix fades into ‘L’ and the album begins in earnest.
“If happy I would die here in your arms.
Don’t cry because the ocean makes me blue,
Jaden Smith -B
On ‘L’, Jaden ditches the more standard song format of verses and hooks in favour of an intro-verse-outro format. With the Intro/Outro serving as a means of continuing the theme of blue and oceans, with the catchy refrain:
“I could put you on a wave”
Jaden smith – L
The long-form verse of ‘L’ serves more as a stream of consciousness covering several themes, ranging from comparisons with Martin Luther King, Kendrick Lamar and himself, to under-representation of African-Americans in the senate, crime, education and Jaden’s insecurities. Whilst all this goes on, we are treated to the expert hands of Tyler, the Creator tinkling on piano keys in the background of the track and impeccable production by Lido who produced the entirety the 13 minute ‘B.L.U.E’ (along with a handful of other tracks throughout the album).
Whilst the chaotic noise of ‘U’ is relatively abrasive in contrast with the rest of the four track opening. Overall, ‘B.L.U.E’ is arguably one of the most interesting introductions to an album you’ll hear all year. Although at times Jaden’s lyrical content leaves much to be desired within the introduction, his flows are impressive and by the time listeners reach the closing whispers of ’B.L.U.E’ on the ethereal ‘E’, and the bouncing beat of ‘Breakfast’ (featuring a heavily distorted A$AP Rocky) begins, Jaden shrugs of most of the pre-conceptions that many people may have about him as an artist with his showcase of potential early on, paving the way for an enjoyable LP.
“Get them niggas out my house (out).
This is Hidden Hills, how are you allowed.
I cut the music, it was loud (do it).
You don’t deserve my respect.
When I talk to Kendrick, man, I sit on the ground (yuh)”
Jaden Smith – Breakfast
Although ‘Syre’ is relatively bare in terms of (credited) features, on ‘Falcon’ (featuring Raury) an otherwise underwhelming 2 minute track is brought to life by a stellar performance by Raury; another talented young hip-hop artist who himself only has one LP under his belt (‘All We Need’, Columbia records -2015), where he positively blows Jaden off the song.
Not to be outdone, the next 5 tracks or so of ‘Syre’; beginning with the love-lorn ‘Ninety’ (produced by Lido) and the melancholic (not to mention heavily Kanye West – ‘30 Hours’ influenced) ‘Lost Boy’ (produced by Teo, OmArr & Bell), running all the way through to the energetic single ‘Watch Me’ (produced by Young Fyre & OmArr), truly belong to Jaden Smith.
The impressive run of tracks showcase a mixture of styles, flows and genres. The lyrics with this section of the album are arguably the sharpest, ’Lost Boy’ and ‘Ninety’ both display a maturity that is suggested throughout the album but isn’t really accomplished until this point. Most importantly, within this 5 track section of ‘Syre’ the most polarising song of the album and most recent single, ‘Icon’ sits.
“You’re all alone,
Does she love you? You’ll never know.
I’ll love her ‘till forever on.
Till she kills my soul.
You’re all that I know.”
Jaden Smith – Lost Boy
Whilst there are times on ‘Syre’ where Jaden’s lyrics make you cringe at his huge ego (maybe most notably on the outro to ‘Breakfast’ where he mentions “saving rap music” – a genre that has literally never been more popular), ‘Icon’ takes the cake.
When you make a hip-hop track with the main hook stating you’re a living icon (on your debut album no less) usually you’re inevitably going to raise some eyebrows. Hip-hop is naturally a very competitive genre, and bragging is prevalent. Bold claims like this aren’t unheard of, but tend to come from the more seasoned veterans. For some listeners, hearing this on a debut LP could be grating. However, in this case it simply works.
“I am just an icon living
Start a record label, MSFTS just did it (Woo)
Interview cover five minutes (Woo)
We are too hot in the business (Woo)”
Jaden Smith – Icon
His delivery of the hook is quality, the production and flows on the track are sound and overall it makes for an infectious track and for better or for worse it’s a definite highlight of the album.
Whilst the remainder of the album isn’t necessarily bad, the only other track that really impresses is ‘George Jeff’ which; much like the rest of the album, has fantastic flows and production. Although the song is maybe a little bit lacking in the substance, it’s otherwise an enjoyable track that would be at home on any party playlist.
“Sometimes I feel like a Polaroid picture
Trapped inside space and time, take a sip of my elixir (ayy)”
Jaden Smith – George Jeff
Overall, although it has some issues there is obvious potential in ‘Syre’ and it really it is a great debut. With fantastic production throughout, Jaden’s taste for beats is impeccable and with his ability and range of flows. Based on this effort, the future is bright for Jaden’s hip-hop career and with a little bit of polishing there’s a good chance he’ll be among the top artists in hip-hop if he continues along in this fashion. But, with his attention divided as an actor, promoting his MSFTS clothing label and his new MSFTS record label, it could be a little while before we hear another project from this talented young rapper.
‘Syre’ is out now via Roc Nation / MSFTSmusic