Seriously, how envious are you that you aren’t the offspring of Will and Jada Smith? Like your fathers arguably the most talented black man of all time, and your mother is a beautiful ultra creative. Essentially, life is set up on a silver platter for you served by your butler named Geoffrey. The money your father makes alone has literally bought you the opportunity to do nothing the rest of your privileged life. This may define the majority of lethargic Hollywood tweens, but not 17-year-old musician, actor, and philanthropist Jaden Smith.
Strolling down different creative avenues of expression, Jaden has exhibited promise in each of his multi-talents. In 2010, Jaden gave us glimpse of his musical inheritance on Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never.” Okay, he was 12, but through a series of trial and error in mixtapes and videos, Jaden was able to find his niche as a perplexing stream of conscious rapper.
Following in the footsteps of his parents, Jaden got his first taste of the silver screen in 2006 alongside his father in the film The Pursuit of Happyness. The performance was solid enough to land him a staring role in the rebooted Karate Kid series in 2010. The film grossed over 300 million worldwide; which positions him for future summer blockbusters, if he chooses to wholeheartedly pursue acting.
As the awkward preteen years have passed, the thirst for individuality is discovered. Starting first with appearance– tight animal print pants, a Batman costume at KimYe’s wedding, his attempt to break gender norms with dresses– Jaden has shown rules clearly don’t apply to him. But appearance is only surface deep, and Jaden’s intelligence may be his most unique set of skills. As social media becomes the epicenter of the world, Jaden has chosen Twitter as his display case. The tweets are the perfect proportion of wisdom, common sense, and WTF that leave no other option but thought provocation.
Recently, an impromptu video surfaced of Jaden discussing the importance of finding yourself at any expense. Jaden’s monologue veers on a tangent highlighting how important it is to live vicariously through your idols– citing Kanye, Drake, and Tyler, the creator as his inspiration. He essentially wants what all creatives want– the opportunity to learn and live with as little creative control as possible. Certainly this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this — I mean two years ago Kanye dropped about fiftyleven of these. And as Kanye gets older… and daddy-er, his willingness to shatter every glass ceiling diminishes leaving room for the young to study and surpass. Social media hasn’t been the most friendly to young Jaden’s honesty. It’s either panned as hyperbolic genius or common sense, as if common sense is a bad thing…as if it warrants skepticism of your intelligence. Judgment can be painful, especially during your teenage years, but Jaden’s pursuit of freedom and creativity sync with his privilege making him one of the most important black children of all time.
What if the advantages of being the spawn of black excellence are the same as the disadvantages? The Smiths may be the second most important modern black family behind the Obamas (watch out for the Currys with the shot boy!). One of the most beautiful ideologies in the world is universal black admiration, but how convenient is that luxury at the expense of freedom? Being different can put your last name in jeopardy if you’ve strayed to far from the nest of comfort. With 24-hour “news” coverage, the media has essentially made it impossible for a famous 20-something year old to be a 20-something year old. And with Jaden and Malia approaching the age of exploration, its interesting to see how the how much leeway will be given to the first children of the black upper class.
Being misunderstood can be uncomfortable. Having the courage to get knocked down by a ruthless world, dust yourself off, and re-present what you think is your best creative self exemplifies gumption. His music and tweets are discounted as gibberish that is fake-deep and half-baked, but when listening with an open mind it emotes all the endless insecure ambitions your young adult brain will allow. Jaden ventures from idea to idea knowing the destination is to be as creatively free as possible– even if he isn’t sure which vehicle to use. Deep down, all of us live through Jaden and the optimistic youth just like him who are aware that the odds are against them, but blissfully ignorant enough to bet on themselves anyway.
Dequan Huggins is a writer living in Virginia. Follow him on Twitter here