Jaden Smith’s second album is a competent yet overblown follow-up record.
In the most unexpected success story, Jaden Smith impressed the rap world with an ear-raising debut record. 2017’s SYRE was a well-produced, abstract album that established Jaden as an artist to take seriously. It was flawed nonetheless, exposing Jaden’s amateur rapping and his struggle to juggle the responsibility of creating a dense concept album. Two years later, its sequel is a chance to improve on Jaden’s weak spots.
ERYS reflects SYRE in every strength and flaw, sonically brilliant but still lacking the lyrical ability to achieve what Jaden sets out to portray.
Like its predecessor, ERYS captures a pretty aesthetic at its genesis. The four-part intro makes a return as “P I N K”, capturing the same lullaby melodies as “B L U E” thanks to the beautiful contributions of Willow. It can almost be discredited for the stark parallels but is a formula that is as successful the second time. Even Jaden’s singing is convincing, a sombre set-up for the highs and lows of the progressive piece.
ERYS wants it to be known that it’s a trap album. Songs like “I” and “Again” are the best of the bunch, adding a knock that separate them from your average trap beat. “Again” rings like a fire alarm that demands to be played out loud on speakers. Other songs follow in the same footstep but do drown in similarity (“Mission”, “Got It”). When ERYS isn’t trap it draws influences from rock and emo. “Fire Dept” and “Riot” are inherently punk rock songs, while Jaden’s vocals on “Summertime in Paradise” mirror that of XXXTentacion.
Jaden ever-so-slightly improves on his ability to convey a concept. Erys is the evil twin of Syre, materialistic and cocky, while Syre is the boyish romantic that carried the gentle nature of “Lost Boy” and “Fallen”. This is why ERYS is so brash in its heavy trap and punk instrumentation. But that’s as far as the concept goes. Jaden doesn’t go into the depth of the character and the dystopian world he’s created for him, which are details explained in an interview rather than on the tracks themselves. There are no root causes or motives behind Erys. At times it feels like the character is a mere excuse for Jaden to add purpose to the trap production when there is no substance to accompany it (“i-drip-or-is”, “Chateu”).
ERYS reaches the heights set by the opening through “On My Own”, a triumphant collaboration with Jaden’s idol, Kid Cudi. Cudi’s sound is pasted all over the track, delivering the best hook of the album alongside the signature soothing hums. The song transforms during the second half, allowing Jaden to take over and compliment Cudi’s contributions. “On My Own” revives Cudi’s hook-writing and skill as a featured artist, which shows the levels he can reach when he chooses to reach out of his artistic shell.
ERYS is far from a regression, nor is it an evolution. Jaden improves his ability to portray a concept and drops far less corny lines this time round. Yet the concept could have been brought full-circle with a greater focus on substance than thinking the production can do all the work.
Rating: 6.5 / 10
Best tracks: “On My Own”, “P I N K”, “Again”