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Jaden Smith has arrived: How the son of a Prince earned hip-hop’s respect

Gold chain. Gold teeth. Gold scalp. Just as the slow-motion figure begins to gain focus, the lens snaps to a man sitting in a Tesla Model X, falcon doors ajar, casually talking on a phone one can only assume is not available to everyday people like you and me.

The word ICON flashes across the screen, heavy subwoofers and intricate hi-hats flood your ears complimented by the cry of a soul sample.

At this point, you have no choice, he has your attention.

“Icon” was the single picked to drop alongside Jaden Smith’s debut studio album, SYRE released November 16th and it’s clear why.

Much like the title of the song, the video is a proclamation. Calling yourself a living icon stems from a confidence that doesn’t develop overnight. It’s unapologetic, raw, and self-aggrandizing.

The person you see in the video — decked out in gold, sporting his own clothing line, and rapping his ass off — is not who we were introduced to in the Pursuit of Happiness, The Karate Kid or who rapped alongside Justin Bieber. This may explain why Smith elected to go with his middle name Sryre as the album title instead of Jaden.

When you watch the video for “Icon” you’re looking at someone who has come into their own. While I’m nose-to-the-screen in awe at the development, he’s delivering bars in a manner that suggests I shouldn’t be surprised at all.

As if we should have known this was coming. It’s that confidence, even more so than his rapping ability, that stands out.

Being the son of Will and Jada Smith, a child actor, and coming from money can get you almost anywhere in life, except hip-hop. Privilege doesn’t bode over well in rap. Drake still catches heat for being on a television show in his adolescence. This is why props must be given to Jaden and his freshman effort.

The 17-track, 70 minute-long offering, which took him three years to complete, has already received high praise. Besides cosigns from A$AP Rocky, Logic, Kendrick, and others in the industry, as of yesterday it debuted at number one on iTunes.

What’s dope about Jaden Smith and what can be taken away from the release and early success of SYRE is that he never stops working.

From dropping his first mixtape at the age of 14 to his joint-mixtape with Daniel D’artist back in 2015, Smith has never compromised his passion in music.

Even his contributions on other artist’s work like Post Malone’s “Lonely” and Rich the Kid’s “Like This” helped lay groundwork to cementing his place in the industry.

From top to bottom the album leaves no stone unturned, Jaden enlists his sister for harmonizations and even inserts spoken word poetry to help convey his emotions.

While he’s till figuring it out — conceptually this body of work was a bit all over the place — what Jaden has done was demand the attention of the hip-hop community. Jaden could easily be dismissed.

While his dad is beloved and has even won a Grammy, Will was never seen as a lyricist enough to be looking for it in Jaden.

There are no certainties in life. Will Smith’s money can only go so far. There are only so many strings to be pulled, eventually you’re going to have to show and prove. Jaden did more than that with SYRE. He’s achieved success not because of his parents, but in spite of them.

At only 19 years old, Jaden Smith has a campaign to reduce the amount of plastic bottles on earth, has his own record label and clothing line, and, despite the risk of completely striking out, dropped an album that is actually pretty fire. Maybe the only limits are in our heads.

People are tuning in to see what Jaden has to say simply because he’s a completely unique figure in modern art.

Jaden Smith earned his spot in hip-hop by taking his chance.

Listen to Syre below.