We try to figure out what Jaden Smith is about.
Jaden Smith turned 20 years old in July. The celebrity son of a certain Fresh Prince, better known as Will Smith, Jaden’s been famous since he was old enough to walk. In the last five years, he’s transformed from your average celebrity superstar offspring into something stranger: a creative who the general public can’t ever seem to make sense of. He’s gone through different phases of evolution: actor, musician, sustainable water bottle entrepreneur, fashion designer and lastly, a millennial philosopher with a Twitter account.
He doesn’t even categorize himself as human. He wore a custom white Batman suit to Kanye and Kim’s wedding. He used his own dreadlocks as an accessory at the Met Gala one year. The next year? He brought his own gold record. He made headlines when he claimed he was dating Tyler, the Creator, then Justin Bieber. Jaden seems to operate on a frequency none of us have access to. There’s no telling what he’ll do next.
So why does Jaden Smith do what he does? This is the closest answer yet – when he was 17, he told GQ the following: “My whole life is just dedicated on learning and breaking, like, the craziest records of life, and being like one of the craziest human beings to ever exist. That's me.”
Jaden Smith Is Not Human And He Ages in Reverse
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The world’s first major introduction to Jaden Smith was when he starred alongside his dad in The Pursuit of Happyness. Between that and a Karate Kid remake starring Jackie Chan, all signs pointed towards Jaden following in his father’s footsteps.
Then After Earth happened. The film, which also starred the elder Smith, didn't fare too well with critics or the box office, and a young Jaden pivoted away from acting at the time. Since then, he’s picked projects sparingly, and they're ones that cater directly to his interests like the animated Netflix production Neo Yokio or the 2018 film Skate Kitchen (Jaden has been about the skating life for a hot minute; a video for one of the earliest tracks he did was shot in a skate park). He also put a focus on things like changing the world or working on a water company where he hopes to become the next Elon Musk.
No, really. The young Smith has global ambitions. He started a collective with his sister Willow named MSFTSRep, where the mission is to create a “creative workforce dedicated to supporting and waking up the population of planet earth, through attaining knowledge and personal growth.” It’s supposed to encompass music, fashion and education – since vaguely announcing it, there’s been clothing lines, visuals, a music partnership with Roc Nation and a “Mystery School” where wisdom about select disciplines get passed down in secret. For Jaden, this is all part of a longterm goal to shake everything up.
“I feel like a serious revolution needs to take place in order for human beings to evolve in a way where we can truly exist as a society.” he told Interview Magazine in 2016. “Because, right now, we do not act as a true society. We act as a world under terror, just scrambling to survive.”
It’s so ambitious and vague, you could mistake it for a Kanye quote. In fact, a good chunk of Jaden Smith’s infamous Twitter feed feels like a raw, Calabasas-bred version of Ye’s world-changing philosophies. Questioning the validity of mirrors and talking about speaking the language of "Jaden" isn’t too different from admitting to be emotional over Tron or talking about the power of ideas.
Jaden Smith Wants To Be An Icon Living
The most direct you can hear Jaden Smith is actually in his music. Jaden’s earliest debut performance was rapping on a Justin Bieber single but it wasn’t long before he reinvented himself. Subsequent mixtapes and collabs revealed the work of someone with growing taste and discernable talent but who still didn’t know what they wanted to do.
It’s what made debut album SYRE feel like a step in the right direction, allowing formative influences such as Kanye West, James Blake and Frank Ocean to stake claim in Jaden’s new world. He was still in the process of figuring out his own rap persona but SYRE spelled it out for listeners: he wanted something huge, cohesive and engrossing.
“SYRE really just came to me one day.” Smith admitted in a 2017 Complex interview. “I didn’t know what I was going to call the album, but one day it really really came. It was like a switch—from one second to another, my whole life switched. I realized that SYRE was the answer, what I had to move forward with.”
Part of what makes Jaden Smith so engaging is getting to see those ‘aha’ moments happen in real time. “Icon” is a great song because it sounds like it could be the first of many great songs to come, the formula finally in place, if only for a moment. There’s the aggressive delivery that fits within the pockets, the boasts that sound like they were written as tweets just a little dialed back. There’s songs like “Fallen” that show another Jaden, one indebted to a West Coast sound that’s “vibey” with plenty of darkness and questions lurking under the surface.
Then there’s the experiments; releasing an entire remix “album” on Instagram with a visual component that completely reconfigures how you’re supposed to look at the songs. Even the elements speak to a desire to be hailed as a future visionary: contemporary trap bangers sit next to EDM tracks about anime characters and R&B deconstructions in Jaden’s canon. These elements sometimes collide in the same space – ”Back On My Shit” juxtaposes Bon Iver-inspired vocoder elements and Florida-inspired trap flows.
“It’s pop mixed with something you don’t understand that you cannot describe,” he told HighSnobiety. “I’m trying to take popular culture and mix it all together and give something new to the world.”
Jaden Smith Might Be The Future
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Is Jaden Smith onto something? Should we shave our eyebrows and buy Teslas? His time in the spotlight has revealed an artist exploring his creative interests to his heart’s content, growing in the eyes of the public. The question is when we’ll see these moments crystalize into something engrossing and all-encompassing. But we know we’ll get more wild tweets, wild ideas and plenty of music in the meantime.
“I’m always going to act how I want to act,” Smith told Rolling Stone. “And some people are always going to think that I’m crazy.”