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Jaden Smith Challenges the Rap Game, Seeks Autonomy

“Dear Everybody Who Can Rap Better Than Me. Please Show Me,” reads Jaden Smith’s tweet on October 17. “Cause I Got 2 Or 3 Albums In Stock Ready”. Well, okay then. Looks like Mr. Smith Jr. is stepping out of Big Willie’s sizable shadow to establish his own cred as a rapper. Whether the tweet is a clever marketing ploy or a legitimate challenge, it accomplishes what it needs to, bringing attention to Jaden Smith and perhaps jumpstarting his fledgling rap career. Now with a poppa bear like Will Smith, the funds are definitely in place for such a launch, and the rap royalty legacy is also cemented. Will Smith may not be the most hardcore rapper around, but he is one of hip-hop’s pioneers. Although he specializes in candy rap and family flow, the man walked away with four Grammys, icon status, and that other little thing – being the most powerful actor in Hollywood.

So, with that said, Jaden’s got a great running start. Now, the real question is, does the 16-year-old star of The Karate Kid and The Pursuit of Happyness have his own bars? He already released several songs this month, “Blue Ocean,” “Trophy,” “Fast,” and “Melancholy.” “Blue Ocean” got our boy singing, showing up his vulnerable side. “Trophy” has him sounding like Q-Tip, easily flowing like a duck through water. “Fast” is as quick as its title and seems unfinished, but Jaden puts his mack down in 1:14 seconds with his trade mark laisse-faire flow. It’s not bad, but a little more emotion and emphasis never killed anyone. But then again, maybe he doesn’t want to seem like he’s trying too hard. Or maybe this is just who he is. (I didn’t hear too many cuss words or n-words, so maybe daddy rubbed off. Thank you!)

As for “Melancholy,” we hear a somber side of Jaden with the Poor Little Rich Kid Blues flowing over a Western-style Pink Floyd beat, a sample of Pink Floyd and a feature by sister Willow Smith: “Man you guys are just some rich kids, how dare you call yourself the misfits! Hope you get coals in your presents for Christmas.” An interesting perspective in which Jaden seems to be challenging the mindset that he’s not allowed to feel like a misfit just because he is rich.

Of course, Jaden has been heading in the rap direction for awhile, releasing his first mixtape, The Cool Café: Cool Tape Vol. 1 at age 14. The 2012 debut of his hella lazy rap style is actually kinda fly, and the graffiti on his video for “The Coolest” reminds me of Will Smith’s title sequence in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

On another note, to add more fuel to the young lion’s need for self-autonomy, Jaden even sought emancipation from his parent’s house at age 15. His father’s reply? When you make a movie bigger than me, you can get your own house.” Hey, who said becoming your own man was easy? Jaden’s first raps are a good start, though. Oh, and by the way Mr. Smith, “Dear Everybody Who Can Rap Better Than Me…” actually sounds like a great album title.


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About the Author


Mic check 1,2,1,2. Not the words you expect to bust out of Orange County, California, but that's where Deborah Jane found her funk. Daughter of Guyanese immigrants, Deborah grew up in an all-white suburb where she was one of the only black kids in her school. (Fun fact: She didn't make her first black friend until attending Stanford University). Hip-hop gave her a voice and helped her discover her roots. Now she is an emcee and writer who both spits raps and writes editorials, TV shows and films - especially hip-hop musicals!

At Stanford, she wrote and produced an award-winning hip-hop musical, Strange Fruit: The Hip-Hopera (www.strangefruithiphopera.com) - now in development as a feature film. Deborah also launched her hip-hip theatre webseries, The HOTT (www.youtube.com/TheHOTTtv), published in Urban Cusp Magazine. Currently, she is penning her first hip-hop album, Do You Love Me Deborah Jane? And do you? She truly hopes you all love her.

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