Culture Music

“SYRE” by Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith’s journey to be a musician almost feels like fate. He comes from a family that has not only the fame to generate unwavering limelight, but also impressive musical credentials. Jada Pinkett Smith was alongside Tupac Shakur writing poetry, and Will Smith has two Grammys for his songs “Men in Black” and “Get Jiggy with It.” Jaden’s sister, Willow, has an album and the hit “Whip My Hair.” Quite simply, music has encompassed Jaden Smith’s life, and it is painfully clear in his new album “Syre.”

Reportedly, three years in the making “SYRE” was delivered November 17, 2017. In some respects, a surprise album, to others a logical step in the maturation of Jaden Smith.  His name has been connected to many of the contemporary rap artists of today, most commonly artists on the West Coast. His development as a lyricist can be tracked quite clearly through the years.

The influences for the sound Jaden creates are clear. Kanye West’s “Yeezus”, Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange”, Childish Gambino’s “Because of the Internet”, and Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon” all seem to bleed through the tracks. A fresh understanding of the late 2000s hip-hop sound that was dominated by 808s and songs of being listless in a beautiful world is what builds through the 70-minute project. With only two features, it establishes Jaden as an artist who can stand alone and is no longer just a cute featured artist on Justin Bieber and Childish Gambino tracks. “SYRE” is the beginning of his music career.

It is difficult to take in Smith’s music without feeling as if the child star has more in common with Mylie Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers than his peers in the rap and hip-hop game. It takes away from how seriously his music can be taken. In the song, “ICON”, Jaden claims to be an icon of pop culture. The biggest question is if he has earned the designation. The messages and flows from the album are educated and clean. He is able to pull references from art, pop culture, racial issues, movies, other artists, and fashion. Yet, all these things are delivered from his point of view.

His perspective creates a gap between “SYRE” and the listening audience. The sound is coming from a kid that has been engulfed in a world of fame, fortune, fashion, and fine art. It is difficult to relate to the experience at times. For example, the song “Ninety” mentions the SoHo House, an exclusive and prestigious members-only club. Frank Ocean bridges similar gaps with a romantic vulnerability that is accessible for any socioeconomic class or race, and “new” Kanye West delivers personal experiences of his famed life that provide a peek into a world far different from our own. Jaden tries to do both and gets misplaced in the process.

Jaden Smith is far from the beginning of his time in the spotlight. He has grown up through the pages of tabloids and walks down red carpets. What makes his music so entrancing is not his famous personality of cryptic messages or his “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” lifestyle. It is seeing how someone like him interprets the world through music which makes “SYRE” an album that needs to be heard.

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