Like one of his father’s career-making summer blockbusters, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith “premiered” on July 8, 1998, in Malibu, California – right between Men in Black and Enemy of the State. As the firstborn son of Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith, he was destined right out of the gate for stardom, appearing as just an infant in his father’s music video “Just the Two of Us,” an ode to parenthood that Smith penned for his son. In it, he finds himself picturing Jaden as a grown man, saying, “Sometimes I wonder what you gonna be/A doctor, a general, maybe an MC.”
And the world wondered right along with him, just as they did when his sister, Willow Smith, was born two years later.
Education and Upbringing
The Smith children were homeschooled for years before Will and Jada founded the private elementary school New Village Academy in Calabasas, California, near the family home. Formerly a high school campus, the Smiths paid $890,000 to lease the property for three years in 2008. In 2013, the academy was shut down amid rumors abounding that the curriculum was heavily influenced and slanted towards Scientology. The school operated under the Study Tech Curriculum, a creation of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter, Suri Cruise, also enrolled in the school in 2009. The official statement from New Village Academy was that it was a secular school, that religion was not promoted, and that the school welcomed children and staff from all religious backgrounds.
Will and Jada claim not to practice Scientology, or even to raise their children under organized religion, though Baptist-born Will has stated that he finds the religion “brilliant and revolutionary, and non-religious.”
Jaden first showed off his burgeoning acting chops In 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness alongside his father at the age of eight, playing Christopher Gardner Jr., the five-year-old son of a recently homeless salesman. The film was generally well-received, with critics remarking specifically on the littlest Smith and his “adorable and endearing” performance in the classic American dream bootstrap story of riches to rags, then back to riches.
He then appeared in the star-studded 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, based on the classic 1951 science fiction film of the same name. Critics largely panned this release, and today the movie has a 40 out of 100 score on Metacritic and dubbed “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes, sitting at 21%.
The Karate Kid, released in 2010 and produced by Will Smith, fared a little better. Jaden co-starred with kung-fu film legend Jackie Chan, playing a 12-year old Detroit transplant in Bejing, China who befriends a maintenance man with a special set of skills. Despite the title, there is no actual karate in the movie; the unlikely duo practices the Chinese art of kung-fu, whereas karate is a Japanese martial art. Neither is the film a true remake of the beloved 1984 classic – though it was also produced by the original producer of the film, who insisted on keeping the same name.
Next came After Earth, an original science-fiction story conceived by and starring Will Smith, co-written by Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli, Rogue One) and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who had just released Avatar: The Last Airbender. Despite the prominent names attached to the project, the film flopped – hard. In a 2015 interview with Esquire, the elder Smith himself famously called the project “the most painful failure of my career,” expressing regret for leading Jaden into it. “That was excruciating,” he went on to say. “I stopped working for a year and a half.”
It seems that the fallout from After Earth possibly soured the younger Smith on a potential acting career as well. In 2014 it was announced that Jaden would star in The Good Lord Bird, a slavery drama based on the novel by James McBride and starring Ethan Hawke and Liev Schrieber, but the film was scrapped. A 2020 TV mini-series premiered instead on October 4, 2020, on Netflix, produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse Films. Jaden is unattached to the series.
At 14, Jaden put together a mixtape called The Cool Café, featuring 17 lo-fi tracks with the subject matter ranging from his clothing line (MSFTSrep) to his girlfriend at the time (Stella Hudgens, the younger sister of Vanessa Hudgens), and featuring guest artists like his sister, Willow Smith, and Josiah Bell. He also released three music videos for the mixtape, the first being a remix rap track over Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” The video, shot in straightforward black and white at L.A.’s Skatelab Park, featured Jaden and a group of his friends performing skateboard and BMX bike tricks before heading to the beach.
The second video was for “The Coolest,” which centered on Jaden walking the graffitied streets of L.A., the 14-year-old rapper sporting double diamond pierced ears – as well as just the tiniest shadow of a pubescent mustache – and looking the spitting image of his father. The track is chill-pop with a hip-hop beat and Jaden’s slow, drawling cadence giving shoutouts once again to his clothing line and his girlfriend, and what it’s like to be “super-rich” and young in California. The music video for “Find You Somewhere” was directed by mother, Jada, and featured AcE (brother, Trey Smith) and Willow Smith on vocals, who was only eleven years old at the time but delivered a powerhouse performance.
In 2014, Jaden dropped the follow-up mixtape to The Cool Café, which he called CTV2. The eight-track “cool tape” featured four more tracks with sister, Willow Smith, who was coming into her own rights as a musician and released her debut EP, 3, on Halloween of that same year.
Jaden soon followed with his own studio-length debut album, Syre, in 2017. It was released through MSFTSMusic and Roc Nation, a partnership of Interscope and Republic Records.
The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story, was the third mixtape in the trilogy, dropping in 2018. It boasted eleven original solo tracks – no features this time. Medium called the mixtape a continuation of “a trend of uninspiring releases.” It peaked at 117 on Billboard.
His second studio-length album, Erys, was released in 2019 and featured collaborations with Tyler, the Creator, Trinidad James, ASAP Rocky, Kid Cudi, Lido, and Willow. The album was, in Jaden’s words, a “strict, hard rap album”. He went on to say that “every song, back to back, high tempo, and a lot of bass like just crazy.” Erys received generally mixed reviews from critics, but debuted at Number 12 on the US Billboard chart.
He dabbled in acting off and on during this time, with a recurring role in Baz Luhrmann’s (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) Netflix series The Get Down, a musical drama set in the Bronx in the 1970s following a set of teenagers during the rise of hip hop in the disco era, playing a young graffiti artist known as Rumi 411. The show premiered in 2016 and was canceled after the first season. He lent his voice to the American-Japanese co-produced Neo Yokio, a science fiction and comic fantasy animated series helmed by Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend.
Jaden starred as the voice of Kaz Kaan, a pink-haired, magic-wielding, demon-slaying bureaucrat in the city of Neo Yokio. Though developing a small cult following, the web series was not particularly well-received, leading some critics to wonder if Jaden had only been tapped for his “strange Twitter persona,” which was a wide topic of discussion at the time as the young superstar was considered something of a social media eccentric.
Moments of… Zen? Or, Top 5 Weirdest Jaden Smith Tweets:
- “How Can Mirrors Be Real if Our Eyes Aren’t Real?”
- “If a Cupcake Falls From A Tree How Far Away Will it Be From Down?”
- “Hey Guys I Might Be Crazy But I’m Not a Dolphin”
- “The More Time You Spend Awake The More Time You Spend Asleep”
- “There Is No Dress.”
Intervention and Airing of Family Drama
The women of the Smith family, Jada and Willow started a web-based talk show called Red Table Talk in 2018. The show airs on Facebook Watch and has won the People’s Choice Award, a Daytime Emmy, and an NAACP Image Award. At the time of this writing, Jaden has appeared four times in 62 episodes: “Growing Up Smith,” “Will Smith’s Emergency Family Meeting,” “Smith Family Medical Results Revealed,” and “Jada and Will: Their First One-on-One Conversation.”
Jaden was most notably upset by “Smith Family Medical Results Revealed,” where it seemed that public speculation about his thinness and overall appearance had prompted his parents to stage an intervention on his behalf. The young star had adopted a vegan lifestyle, and his parents worried he was not getting enough nutrients. His skin was beginning to turn gray, which alarmed his father greatly. “So he was wasting away. He just looked drained, he was just depleted, he wasn’t getting the nutrients,” the elder Smith fretted on Red Table Talk. In solidarity, the entire Smith clan underwent a barrage of medical tests and revealed them publicly on the show. Jaden was diagnosed with a gluten and dairy intolerance, as well as a vitamin deficiency and lack of Omega-3s from his all-vegan diet. As a result of the show, he said, strangers would come up to him on the street and offer him food, asking about his health.
In 2020, he appeared on his parents’ talk show again amid the gossip-fueled news that parents Will and Jada’s marriage was on the rocks. The pair admitted to agreeing to a separation four years prior, and Jada had since been romantically entangled with singer-songwriter August Alsina, 27 – whom Jada had actually met through Jaden. The Red Table Talk episode, titled “Jada and Will: Their First One-on-One Conversation,” completely smashed Facebook Watch records. The segment detailed Jada’s affair and its effect on the family.
New Love in His Life
At the 2020 Grammys, Jaden referred to Tyler the Creator as his boyfriend, tweeting out “My Boyfriend Just Won a Grammy” after Tyler won Best Rap Album for Igor. The relationship had been hinted at since 2018 when Jaden paused in the middle of a show at the Camp Flog Gnaw Festival and gushed about his friend.
“I just wanna say Tyler, the Creator is the best friend in the world,” he said. “And I love him so fucking much. and I wanna tell you guys something, I wanna tell you, Tyler doesn’t wanna say, but Tyler is my mother fucking boyfriend and he’s been my motherfucking boyfriend my whole life.
As early as 2015, fans speculated over a vague-tweet Jaden posted in 2015 on Tyler’s birthday that said, “I Think I’m In Love With You, I Don’t Know I’m Still Figuring It Out But In The Meantime, Happy Birthday.” The two have been friends and collaborators, making music and touring together since 2013.
What’s Next for Jaden
In July of 2020, Jaden released a track called Cabin Fever that seemed to sum up the general mood of most Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Musicians that have written and released albums during lockdown are calling the practice “quarantuning,” as inspiration strikes in solitude. He also announced another mixtape, titled CTV3, which dropped in September 2020. NME called it “his most cohesive album yet,” praising the classic-pop feel of the tracks and winning him comparisons to Harry Styles and John Mayer. This year, he also followed in his sister Willow’s footsteps, dropping the “Smith” from his name. He stated that he thinks she is incredibly strong for doing so, to be on her own, and not rely on her name to get her where she wants to go in life.
Jaden is for music, he clarified, and Jaden Smith is for movies. Does this mean an eventual return to acting? Time will tell. In any case, he is unshakable in his confidence and resolves to keep working and creating despite not always hitting the mark.