Titled after the rapper's middle name, SYRE finds Jaden Smith striving toward artistic maturity, searching for his own voice with often impressive results. As his first official full-length, there are enough high points to foreshadow exciting potential, while the moments that don't land as smoothly simply illustrate that Smith is willing to take risks. Released soon after his sister Willow's debut, SYRE is also a coming-of-age journey that finds the son of Will and Jada processing the pains wrought by personal romantic drama and tackling wide-reaching social issues, from the prison industrial complex to misogyny in the hip-hop world. Influenced by Kanye West, SYRE shares the sensitivity and frustration of 808s & Heartbreak, while at the same time reaching for the grandeur of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy ("Icon") and flirting with the messiness of Life of Pablo ("U"). He even channels "Black Skinhead" on the propulsive standout "Watch Me." Although Smith still has quite a way to go before he reaches West levels, SYRE is a satisfying collection of inspired production and thoughtful lyrics. After the expansive four-song intro "B," "L," "U," and "E" -- a thematic exploration that summarizes SYRE's spirit -- Smith launches straight into "Breakfast," an old-school, Wu-Tang-sounding collaboration with A$AP Rocky. On one of many key moments throughout SYRE, Willow joins her brother on the atmospheric "Hope," which finds Smith searching for positivity in the face of society's many ills. "Falcon," the third highlight in a row, features Raury on a house-inflected throbber that is a pure thrill. The heart of the album -- "Ninety" and "Lost Boy" -- is an intense two-song voyage that spans nearly 17 minutes. Smith pines for his soulmate, declaring that he's after her mind and not just her body. His attempts to rise above typical hip-hop misogyny are admirable, however clunky in lyrical execution. He revisits this theme on "Rapper," where he goes on a Lil Uzi Vert triplet streak, repeating "Hundred grand no misogyny/Hundred grand for monogamy." Elsewhere, Smith takes cues from other prominent figures in the hip-hop world, whether it's Drake on the "Jumpman" update "Batman," or Run the Jewels on the menacing "The Passion." Fans of Post Malone, Kid Cudi, Big Sean, and Playboi Carti should also find enough to appreciate on the stylistically diverse SYRE. As a debut, it has enough standout moments to pique interest in a future when Smith could stand toe to toe with his many inspirations.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung