Jaden Smith, like the rest of his family, has been displaying his talent across multiple platforms since a young age. He has acted in a number of movies and shows. He founded JUST Water, an eco-friendly water company. He also founded MSFTSRep, short for MSFTS Republic, an art collective that includes Smith and other artists such as his sister Willow, ¿Téo? and Harry Hudson. In terms of his music career, Smith released his first studio album “SYRE” in 2017. On Nov. 17, 2018, the one year anniversary of the “SYRE” drop, Smith released “The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story,” an 11-track mixtape that speaks to Smith’s range as an artist. He also released his clothing line, The (((VISION))) Collection, on the same day.
Smith worked to hype up the album release by tweeting pictures of various girls with the caption “November 17th.” On Nov. 23, Smith tweeted an explanation of his artistic intentions with the creation of “The Sunset Tapes.”
“I Evolved My Sound To Involve A Wider Group Of People To Our Conversation,” he wrote. “I Had To Bridge The Gap Between SYRE & ERYS Because The Chasm Is Too Vast.” Smith references the personas he has created for his albums, Syre being one of his middle names and Erys being Syre reversed. Smith also wrote that he was inspired by all of the women in his life, which can explain the album’s softer, more emotionally vulnerable side. Overall, Smith has a hip-hop sound that gets his listeners hype, but he displays his versatility by also including more mellow, chill R&B songs that can put you in your feelings.
The album opens with “SOHO,” a song that seems to start out slow with the tinkling of a few piano notes, but with the looming feeling that a beat is going to drop. It does, and Smith smoothly raps about a girl who broke up with him: “Said that I’d give you the world and you turned it to a snow globe.” He drops references to Asian culture, like the writings of Osho, the Indian spiritual guru, and kimonos. Smith also specifically references Japanese culture in his single “GOKU,” for which the music video was shot on a city street in Japan and features Smith going ‘Super Saiyan’ just like the “Dragon Ball Z” character.
The next song on the album is “A Calabasas Freestyle,” which has an immediate beat drop. He raps about his current lifestyle and those who can’t see his vision: “They can’t understand my intentions / Man, they can’t understand my inventions.” He also includes a line that further explains his aim for the album: “This is drastically different / That’s why I had to drop the tape just to gradually shift it.” The tape is an effort on Smith’s part to bridge the gaps between his works.
“Plastic” is also immediately hype, with Smith rapping through auto-tune and a distortion filter. The music video features his usual aesthetic choices, the sunset providing a picturesque backdrop while Smith dances around a Tesla. He wears clothes from his own line and drinks JUST Water, which ties back to the title of the song and Smith’s efforts to be more environmentally conscious. The video also has a moment when “This Is Not A Part Of The SYRE Timeline” flashes in yellow print, further showing how Smith wants to create a distinction between his works. However, with the similarities in music video and song styles, it’s hard to see much difference between this timeline and that of Smith’s previous album.
There’s even a song on “The Sunset Tapes” that references Smith’s past persona, called “SYRE In Abbey Road.” Another one of Smith’s softer ballads about a girl he’s in love with, the song also features a distortion filter that provokes a transcendent state for the listener. The penultimate song of the album, “FALLEN Part 2,” provides another reference to Smith’s previous work, as “SYRE” features a song called “Fallen.” Smith reminisces about a past love, as opposed to the original “Fallen,” where he initially professes his feelings. Both songs are sure to plunge the listener into their feelings, whether over an ex or a current crush.
I really enjoy listening to this album and appreciate Smith’s versatility as an artist in terms of the different vibes he creates through his sound. I can see the tape as a bridge between what Smith has been creating and what he will create in the future, but I would’ve liked to feel more growth from his previous album. Therefore, I’d give “The Sunset Tapes” an 8/10.