Between his prolific Hollywood family, stoner-babble tweets and eccentric modern fashion line, Jaden Smith would be hard to summarize were it not for one word: an enigma. His bumpy travel through adolescence was easiest viewed through cinema, where Jaden took center stage in the recent remake of the 1980s classic The Karate Kid and joined forces with his famous father, Will, in the bad sci-fi epic After Earth. Last week, Jaden finally made the pivot from the big screen to big sound with his debut rap album, SYRE – cosigned by RocNation, Jay-Z’s record label. And just like Jaden himself, the album is an enigma that I have extremely mixed feelings on.
It’s rare for me to feel this conflicted on an album. Usually even if elements aren’t all at the same level I can still collect my thoughts and put out a letter grade or a score. SYRE wasn’t that easy due to the polarity of the production and lyrics on the album. The production is, without a shadow of a doubt, superb. With excellent producers behind the album like Christian Rich and Lido, the album twists and turns from trap-inspired beats to slow acoustic sections to guitar heavy choruses and back again. With a reported three years of work put into the album, brilliant production was expected and I’m happy to say it delivered. It’s incredibly beautiful…
…and then you have to focus on what Jaden Smith is actually speaking over the sparkly beats and you come back down to reality. In a rap landscape that is becoming increasingly conscious and dark in lyricism, Jaden aims for both and misses the mark. In hindsight, I don’t know why I expected decent songwriting abilities and topics from the same dude who once tweeted “If Everybody In The World Dropped Out Of School We Would Have A Much More Intelligent Society.” Jaden jumps around from the fantastical showboating we have come to expect from the new era of rap (“Rockin’ couture on the floor of a Louis V store”) to pathetic, forced rhymes about life (“Girl, I’m Martin Luther, Martin Luther King/Life is hard, I’m Kamasutra-ing”). It’s exhausting in itself, but the way Jaden delivers the lines does himself no favors: Jaden overuses the triplet flow that dominates the top 40 more and more each month, making each song stale within minutes. I have nothing against triplets themselves; many artists use them to near-perfection, namely Migos, Future and Young Thug. Variance is what separates them from overusing artists like the man in question. At 70 minutes long and holding three songs over six minutes, SYRE had no room to be dull and I hate to say that it was on multiple accounts.
In an interview with Complex earlier this year, Jaden said “It’s time for a new awakening and a new consciousness. Anybody who thinks they know me, this album is something completely different from what they think.” I really wish he was right.
Final Grade: C
Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.