Jaden Smith is a very interesting figure in the culture. Like his father, he is successful in multiple fields. He is a talent- ed musician, actor, model, and founder of “JUST” Water and “MSFTSrep.” I started paying attention to his music in 2015 when he released the song “Scarface.” By the time he released his debut album “SYRE” two years later, the culture began to take notice as well. He now returns with his latest project, “Cool Tapes Vol. 3” the latest in his long running series. Jaden is the type of artist who creates projects that sound vastly different from each other. He doesn’t lend himself to a single genre, instead he flows in between them with ease. His ability to blur the lines between genres is on full display in this al- bum. Whether you’re a fan of his rapping, slow R&B records, or vibrant pop hits, this album puts it all together.
Jaden’s approach to this album appears much different from the rest. On “SYRE” and “ERYS” Jaden is telling a story using each song as a chapter or scene from a movie. This approach is appreciated; however, it affects the listening experience from those who just want to listen to music. On “CTV3” Jaden fo- cuses way more on making songs that don’t necessarily lend themselves to a narrative that he’s building, even though the album is described as a prequel to “SYRE.” I personally enjoyed the story structure of “SYRE” because of how well it added depth to the songs without overshadowing them. “ERYS” on the other hand is an album that I feel was very unfocused in what it wanted to be. I don’t blame Jaden for this, because of his ability to find success in anything he touches, I looked at the album as an artist trying to constantly push his sound for- ward, which is always an admirable trait in artists.
I commend Jaden for how much he was able to refine his formula for “CTV3” compared to his last projects. The album’s runtime falls in at 51 minutes, compared to both “SYRE” and “ERYS” which were both over an hour long. From the moment you hit play, the album feels like it just coasts through, with little interference from skits or the autotune heavy outro’s that Jaden has used quite a lot in the past. I love albums that offer songs that I can enjoy out of the sequence of the album it- self, and I feel like every song on here stands strongly on their own just as much as they work together to create the vibe that Jaden goes for.
Upon first listening to “CTV3”, I felt a little underwhelmed. I was not in the right place to receive the lighthearted “beach boy” vibe the way I should have been. After listening more and more my attitude towards the album quickly changed. When I heard the two lead singles, “Rainbow bap” and “Cab- in Fever” I wrote them off for not being much different than what I already have heard from Jaden. Listening to them in the sequence of the album added a layer of continuity that made me appreciate them much more. Also, I believe that Jaden has gotten to the point where the songs that he makes don’t sound like he’s replicating those that have influenced his artistry. For example, “Rainbow Bap” sounds very reminiscent of some- thing Kid Cudi would make, without sounding like an attempt. Instead, I feel like Jaden’s confidence and approach to song making is unique to him, and this is the most polished version of where he is at now as an artist.
Jaden has always given a lot of attention to the visuals that he pairs with his albums, and this time it’s no different. Though there’s only one full length video of “Cabin Fever” at the moment, every song has a “visualizer” which is a looped clip to serve as mini music videos. The overall image for this album is one that’s not often celebrated in hip hop. Jaden’s use of rainbows and the idea of “all inclusive” love is a concept that hip hop hasn’t often been able to appreciate or put on full display. I feel like Jaden has always known this, and instead of using the imagery as a ploy to boost album sales, the imagery ties the entire feel of the album together. With this project, Jaden proves once again that he is a mainstay in the culture.