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27th November 2017

Album Review: Jaden Smith – SYRE

The 19-year old tells us “the story of a boy who chased the sunset until it chased him” on his debut album

SYRE marks an important step in Jaden Smith’s career. His debut album serves multiple purposes: it’s a testament to his coming-of-age and an artistic dissociation from his father, Will “can my son be in this film” Smith. He’s his own man with a unique yet relevant artistic identity that solidifies him as one of the best breakthrough artists of 2017. The title of the project comes from his middle name, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, further pushing the construction of his individual identity, as is the logical and natural progression for every teenager to make.

From the get-go we are presented with a vastly more mature young man who has come far since his early adolescent twitter reflections on life, death, and everything in between, and his collaborations with Justin Bieber in 2010, at 12 years of age, a phase that is forgivable — we were all 12 once, right? His feature on Childish Gambino’s Kauai in 2014 was foreshadowing for the future leaps he is currently taking. In 2017, Jaden’s rebirth was initiated with features on Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy and A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes Vol 2. The singles from SYRE released since August got the hip-hop community interested in the project’s impending release.

The album’s opener, ‘B’ has vocals from Pia Mia and Jaden’s sister, Willow (who, I must note, is also exploring her creativity in very interesting ways) that make way for a strong, deep beat reminiscent of Kanye’s ‘All Day’. Jaden’s voice is pleasantly fresh, unique, and extremely different from his former teenage self. The first five tracks, ‘B’,’L’,’U’, and ‘E’, may as well be one long intro track because of how seamlessly they flow into each other. “U” is incredibly intense and fantastically rich. Of course, being the son of Will Smith, a man whose artistic repertoire covers film, television, and the 90s hip-hop scene, it’s no wonder that his son has access to some of the best writers, producers and, in the case of his music videos, visual creative minds in the music industry today.

‘Breakfast’ has a quintessential early 2000s hip-hop piano melody paired with a gritty drum beat and features A$AP Rocky who, bizarrely, doesn’t actually appear on the track, as far as his voice is concerned. Lyrically, the song is hilarious, with talks of the Illuminati, Call of Duty, Teslas, modern hip-hop artists, and street culture of our time, all things that compose and influence him. After a strange interlude, the beat and flow switch completely.

Jaden brings a crazy flow on ‘Hope’ that carries over to ‘Falcon’, a ‘flex track’, a staple of hip-hop as a musical genre. In contrast to the hard tracks, ‘Ninety’ and ‘Lost Boy’ are long, complex, and deep tracks that allow the listener to breathe and, in the latter song, hear him talk about his rebirth in the third person. The singles ‘Batman’, ‘Icon’, and ‘Watch Me’ are fast and solid inclusions on the record. My favourite song from the album, ‘Fallen’, comes next and shows off Jaden’s talent as a vocalist, lyricist, and MC. ‘The Passion’ brings an intense lyrical assault with a handful of ad-libs sprinkled throughout, as we’ve come to expect from rap in 2017. The song’s soft decrescendo paves the way for ‘George Jeff’, hitting  and hard and catching the listener off guard with political, religious, mythical, and trippy traits. Unfortunately, as is the problem with the next track as well, it feels way too short. ‘Rapper’ is the final grimy inclusion during which I noticed Jaden’s bizarre fixation with Tesla, the automotive brand that gets name-dropped a total of 7 times in the one hour duration of the LP.

Finally, the closer, ‘SYRE’ is a monologue set to a lo-fi chilled beat where Smith speaks about himself almost as if he’s a mythical hero. It’s a good closer to a very solid project that is exceptional for a debut and, in my opinion, one of the most notable hip-hop releases of the year, providing the listener with an experience that doesn’t grind to a halt despite perplexing the listener with minuscule snippets of dialogue at the end of most tracks that neither add nor detract from the ride.

Jaden Smith has the potential of creating amazing art, and this coming-of-age project proves it. With an already strong career, it’s fair to say that I am very excited about what the artist has yet in store for us in the years to come.

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