The actor-rapper-fashion experimentalist made a 180º turn and found his voice – we find out when
Difficult as it may be to believe the spawn of Will Smith is shaping the zeitgeist to suit his agenda, Jaden Smith is irrefutably cool now. He wears capes and skirts. He lives by the mantra "You do you" and makes no apologies for it.
Now, the 16-year-old is following the well-trodden path of other young stars who have rehabbed their image (see Cyrus, Miley; Jenner, Kendall). Raise an eyebrow at his existential musings, but stay for his sartorial swagger and hard-hitting rap verses.
Regardless of whether you like him or not, he's pulled off that much-needed career pivot that is key to reinvention, and we're here to tell you it's working. So when, exactly, did Jaden Smith become so cool? Let's narrow down the entries on his CV to ascertain the precise point at which his cultural footprint became so heavy.
JUNE 2010 – NOT A KARATE KID, NOT YET A KUNG FU MASTER
He may have pulled off corn rows and a wifebeater with aplomb back in 2010, but he still had to answer to kung fu master Jackie Chan in The Karate Kid. We're still trying to “wax off” the paralysing anthem that was born out of this blockbuster from our collective memories – Jaden Smith's duet with the Biebs, “Never Say Never”. And though it's no fault of Smith's, The Karate Kid should never have been touched with a ten-foot bamboo shoot.
VERDICT: NOT COOL
SEPTEMBER 2012 – WHEN HE RELEASED THIS GEM
September 24, 2012. Smith first tried to solidify his cool with the release of The Cool Cafe: Cool Tape Vol. 1. While lead single "The Coolest" is definitely a strong contender for street cred, you can still see his peach fuzz tash coming through, which kind of reminds me of the Lil Bow Wow/Mario heyday. Not a bad toe-dip into the realm of hip hop, but still not quite there yet. Although the lyrics “I'm takin' older women / sorry bro I do it big” are basically what every dude was thinking at 14.
VERDICT: NOT COOL… YET
MAY 2013 – THE BOX OFFICE BOMB THAT WAS AFTER EARTH
In May 2013, Jaden and his Fresh Prince dad tried to recreate the charisma they shared together on screen in The Pursuit of Happyness to lukewarm box office takings and frigid reviews. A Wall Street Journal film critic opened his piece, asking: "Is After Earth the worst movie ever made?" Probably yes would be the right answer. Jaden plays 9-year-old Kitai, some sort of space cadet whose application to become a space ranger is rejected because, well, he sucks. And his name is Kitai.
VERDICT: NOT COOL
MAY 2013 – WHEN HE TWEETED THIS
That same month, still a bit lost in space perhaps, he asked the universe, “How Can Mirrors Be Real If Our Eyes Aren't Real”. It was the equivalent of an MSN Messenger ~status update~, following on from other existential and empirical questions that left the WWW scratching their heads. While in all likelihood he stands by the logic behind most of these musings, his Twitter and Instagram accounts apparently became the victims of too much vitriol. The former was deleted last month and the latter is now private. Now we have to think for ourselves.
VERDICT: UM, WHAT? NOT COOL
OCTOBER 2014 – THE #INTERVIEW
Yes, that interview for The New York Times' T magazine in October 2014, alongside hair-whipping sis Willow, that set the internet alight. They talked about many topics – many a seemingly unedited extension of their thought processes – including, but not limited to, the inauthenticity of school, ancient texts and this bit about babies:
Jaden: “When babies are born, their soft spots bump: It has, like, a heartbeat in it. That’s because energy is coming through their body, up and down.”
Willow: “Prana energy.”
Jaden: “It’s prana energy because they still breathe through their stomach. They remember. Babies remember.”
It was just a month before Smith dropped the video for "Fast", which was a very clever PR move. Earlier in October, he featured on two of Childish Gambino's tracks, “Pop Thieves (Make it feel good)” (below) and “Late Night In Kauai”.
VERDICT: OKAY, WAIT. IS HE KIND OF COOL?
APRIL 2015 – WHEN HIS RAP WAS ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD
Receiving an entry on the list of Complex's list of best rap verses of April for his song "Offering", he officially eclipsed his father as the heaviest spitter in the fam. Seriously, just take a listen. This kid's rap is no joke. “Renegade, never been afraid, sippin' lemonade / Flew to France, sip in different ways, serendipi-tay / Do you ever struggle with your enemies?”
VERDICT: PRETTY DAMN COOL
MAY 2015 – WHEN HE TRANSFORMED INTO THE DARK KNIGHT FOR PROM
Why wish you were a superhero if you can just become one? Just last month, Smith proved that capes might just be a wardrobe staple with this insane all-white batsuit with cape. He had previously worn a black Batman outfit to Kimye's wedding, but he put his thang down, flipped it and reversed it for his high school prom. He shielded the haters with his flowing white cape and practiced what he preached: be yourself, or Batman. DO YOU!
VERDICT: PRETTY DAMN COOL
MAY 2015 – THE TIME HE TOOK AMANDLA STENBERG TO PROM IN A SKIRT
Just five days ago, Smith attended his second high school prom with good friend and former Hunger Games tribute Amandla Stenberg. As a fierce champion of womenswear for men (gender lines? Who needs 'em), he donned a white skirt. He first slipped into a skirt back in April at Coachella, but rather than preen when the cameras were flashing, he incorporated the look into his every day life. He doesn't care what you think. Smith also taught his haters a lesson when he tweeted in April that he was going to buy “some girl clothes, I mean 'clothes.'” Because fabric shouldn't have a gender.
VERDICT: PEAK COOL
So it was definitely post #interview in late 2014 that Jaden's philosophical prowess truly came to light. Sure, he was derided for his opinions, but he gained massive cred featuring alongside Childish Gambino and solidifying his talents as a legit MC. His cool has only snowballed since the beginning of 2015 with his bold skirt looks and ham-fisted hip hop tracks. Jaden Smith, you're unfuckwitable. Keep braving the haters and showing us all that we can rescue our careers (if, for some reason, the person in question gets fired after publishing this article.)