Jaden Smith gave us Jaden Smith.
Quite literally, considering his debut album, “SYRE,” is one of his middle names. The album met expectations, yet failed to exceed any. Within several songs are forced pseudo-philosophical, conspiracy-influenced lyrics, mixed with an idea of struggle from the prodigal son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.
In several interviews, Jaden Smith also noted Kanye West, Miguel, Drake and Frank Ocean as inspirations for multiple tracks as well, which is very apparent with flows and beats that resemble those artists throughout. Although he added a bibliography, he mimicked them too strongly as if his songs were written with a template.
The track “Batman” clearly copies the flow of Drake amd Future’s viral track “Jumpman.” He pays homage to Kanye West too with “Watch Me,” a rock and rap mix that resembles West’s “Black Skinhead.”
At the end of “Breakfast,” a song that contains one of the two features in “SYRE,” Jaden takes on a persona that asks the question, “So, you think you save rap music?” Lyrically, the album was not up to par with the claim. With hip-hop/rap being today’s top genre, does the rap game really need saving? Smith’s flow remained strong through the entirety of the tape, but his lyrics were not that impressive, lacking in substance and originality.
The track “Ninety” focused on Jaden’s past relationships. His lyrics include lines like, “I’m keepin’ it humble and noble/I spit that radiation like I’m Chernobyl,” and “This ain’t the first time but the worst time and I’m feeling so blue/I’m at the SOHO House/If you wanna come through, got a seat just for you.” Also, in the second track of the album, “L,” Smith raps the laughable line, “Girl I’m Martin Luther, Martin Luther King/Life is hard, I’m Kamasutra-ing.” This line is one of the many wannabe, philosophical nuggets that Smith uses in his lyrics.
Before going any further, however, I must state that I am huge fan of Smith and his work all around. I loved his track “Kite,” a 2013 track featuring his sister, Willow. I am also a big fan of “Beast Mode,” a track he released in 2015, but recorded when he was only 15 years old with Ta-Ku.
He also has made artistic strides outside of his music. His ability to turn his Instagram page into an art gallery, and his strong fashion campaigns with Vogue and Louis Vuitton are to my taste. Smith is smart and talented despite his age, and his versatility in the entertainment industry shows this.
The saving grace for “SYRE” was arguably one of the best intros of 2017. Smith begins the album with four songs titled “B,” “L,” “U” and “E” that all overlap into a melodious, poetic and orchestral testimony to the vitality of the female existence, something that Smith has attested to in his previous work. Willow was brought on to open the album with archaic vernacular, holding the essence of a biblical verse, “Thy hair inspired God to make the breeze/Thy lips inspired God to make a man.”
Beyond Smith’s lyrics in songs throughout the tape are beats that had the potential to be sure-fired bangers. “Icon” and “Passion” both display the vibe of contemporary hip-hop with well-calculated beat drops, and his flow fits perfectly with the rhythm and speed of the tracks.
His songs are lengthy and seemingly unnecessarily so, as several songs bounce around from pop to hip-hop to alternative and rock. These multiple part songs also contain a lot of dialogue that mesh into a very unclear storyline that distracts from the music itself. I also believe that the album could have been done without “Watch Me” and “Rapper,” tracks that feel like filler.
“SYRE” gave what was to be expected. Smith is young, and his first album was parallel to his personality, scattered but diverse. He pulls a lot of influence from today’s top artists, but gives them the credit. Regardless of this album’s flaws, I am excited to hear what Smith puts out next, as I guarantee it will best “SYRE.”