Do you remember the episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where Will flipped his prep-school jacket inside out? That’s what it feels like entering the world of Jaden Smith’s debut album, SYRE. It is an esoteric journey into the crimson and gold floral-print landscape of a prince who never had to conform to the navy blue blazers of the world.
On SYRE, Jaden wears his influences — Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino, Kanye West — proudly. The album is brilliant, baffling, and good and could only have been made by a 19-year-old with endless social and economic capital. In a 2014 interview with Hot 97, Donald Glover described what it means for a kid like Jaden to be able to experiment without fear: "He is the first rich black kid really of royalty where people are like, 'You’re Will Smith’s [son],'" Glover said. "He’s the most visible example. ... He has room to fail."
Jaden’s room to fail is what makes an album like SYRE possible. Smith’s rapping flits between being nimble, insightful, and naive. His developing singing voice and ear for melody add depth to the record. Let’s dive into some of the most memorable, confusing, and thrilling lyrics from Smith’s first official foray into the mainstream.
The first rule of the Illuminati? Don’t talk about the Illuminati.
On “Breakfast” featuring A$AP Rocky, Smith raps, “The Illuminati's real, that's a deal / Write a book so I can prove it.”
Yes please, Jaden, write a book. Write all the books and fill them with your musings on secret societies orchestrating the lives of the proletariat. What makes Jaden’s line at the beginning of the album genuinely hilarious is how he makes it null and void a couple of songs later. On “Lost Boy” Jaden spits:
He's building pyramids, he's getting serious
Until he drove himself delirious, like are you hearing this
This ain't an outer body conversation about conspiracists
Even though I may appear as this
To be fair Jaden, pyramids are one of the most recognizable symbols of the Illuminati. If we’re going to trust your revelations about a secret society, you cannot flip flop.
Jaden Smith & The Goblet of Toblerones
Few things in this world bring more joy than the thought of Jaden Smith and Harry Potter being friends who love to share Toblerones in real life. During “George Jeff,” Jaden spits, “Huh, cheetah prints on the pants / Expelliarmus, Me and Harry Potter in the Benz.”
It is hard to figure out if the above line is a metaphor for Jaden Smith disarming his critics with his sartorial choices or if expelliarmus is the only spell he remembers from the movie. (Side note: Jaden Smith’s patronus is definitely a sifaka lemur.)
Jaden Smith, Martin Luther King, and the Kama Sutra walk into a bar...
Within the first five minutes of SYRE, Jaden Smith makes the bold proclamation, “Girl, I'm Martin Luther, Martin Luther King / Life is hard I'm Kamasutra-ing.” Jaden Smith is obviously not the famous civil rights leader, but in a roundabout way, his existence is a testament to the evolution of King’s dream.
Jaden Smith is a young man who grew up with the type of access to money, power, and influence historically not granted to blacks. And while “Swear the city hate the watermelon and the melanin” is a real line on a real rap album in 2017, it's reassuring that Smith is willing to speak to the cultural climate — even if he's invoking MLK and the Kama Sutra within the same bar.
Jaden is also a baby haunted by Elvis Presley’s ghost.
At points, the lyrics on SYRE sound like Jaden rapping a random assemblage of his tweets at you. The epic, confusing, and ultimately rewarding experience is best exemplified on “U.”
I'm just a baby with a stack of needles and a sippy cup
And this shit sucks, need some love, my Aphrodite I can touch
Elvis Presley's coming out of me, my head has got a rush
Didn't pick a fight, the FBI just picked a fight with me
Jaden has a way with words, and I’d watch the hell out of a movie called Honey, Our Baby Is Possessed By The Ghost of Elvis, directed by Jordan Peele.
Does Jay-Z know who Hello Kitty is?
There is nothing I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall when Jaden Smith walks through the Roc Nation offices. On "Rapper," Jaden Smith spits:
I'm about to put Hello Kitty on my neck
Just to show wack rappers how to get it
I slaughtered the beat and I never regret it
I'm signing to Hov just to help with my credit
There are a couple things to unpack here. First, what is Jaden showing wack rappers how to get? There doesn’t seem to be a huge untapped market in the rap world for Hello Kitty chains. Secondly, when your parents are Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith, a credit score above 700 seems like the least of one’s problems. Third, Jaden definitely talked to Hov about crystals, frequencies, and opening one's third eye during their meeting as Blue Ivy looked on in amazement.