Jaden is all about challenging the status quo and breaking the rules.
In August, the 23-year-old innovator formerly known as Jaden Smith dropped CTV3, the final chapter of his Cool Tapes series, which delves into a psychedelic journey. He tells Complex that the project goes into a lane very few rappers have explored before. “I’ve never heard a mixtape that was alternative psychedelic rock,” he says. “I also wanted to take a big leap as a rapper, honestly, to go to the extreme ‘other place.’”
Jaden is pushing boundaries in the philanthropic space, as well. Over the last year, he’s been working on launching a restaurant in Los Angeles that will give free food to the homeless community. He’s also working on ways to solve the water crisis in disenfranchised communities through his JUST Water company. And now, Jaden is looking to make another statement with his latest MSFTSrep collection, which just launched in London’s high-end department store Selfridges & Co on Sept. 22.
Similar to his own interests and mission, Jaden says his MSFTS collection is representative of “the organized rebellion within the youth.” He explains, “This [collection really is for the lost souls and the kids that feel like they never fit in, or that people didn’t understand them, or that no one really wanted to hang out with them. MSFTS is a collective of individuals dedicated to raising the consciousness of humanity through art and science. That’s just a long way of saying that it’s the kids that got kicked out of the cool kids club. It’s all those kids that came together to change the world.”
The launch of his MSFTS collection marks the beginning of a new chapter for Jaden. He reveals that he is taking a step away from music for the foreseeable future. “I’m probably not going to release any music for a while,” he says. Jaden isn’t clear on whether he’ll ever return to music, but with MSFTS and his other humanitarian efforts, he definitely has a lot on his plate. And at the core of all of his projects, Jaden says his mission is simply to “innovate.” He’s coming to terms with his place in music, too, hinting that people criticize his innovations before ultimately being influenced by them.
Jaden spoke to Complex about his psychedelic journeys, MSFTS, CTV3, changing the world, and more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
CTV3 dropped last month. What did you hope to accomplish with the project in the final chapter of The Cool Tapes?
I really wanted to update people on the psychedelic journey that I’ve been on in my life and how that has affected me, as well as trying to close out this trilogy that I’ve been telling in a mixed matched way of a love story that took place in Sunset City. That is based on a true story, so I’m closing out the trilogy, while I’m updating people on my psyched-out nature. And I always want to tap into the emotions of the lost people in the world, and people that have dealt with heartbreak. It’s kind of like therapy.
What do you mean exactly by “psychedelic journey?”
I’m talking about actual journeys on psychedelics. And my life is kind of like a psychedelic journey at this point. I’m just updating people on how I begin to study my own mystical states of consciousness within myself and others, and what I’ve learned. I’m trying to create a soundtrack for people to be able to study their own mystical states of consciousness, because I think the most important thing is to know that there are mystical states within us that we have access to, and that there’s different ways to getting to it. Even doing something like martial arts can get you to a mystical state of consciousness. Or tai chi or surfing or yoga or meditation or psychedelics.
“My life is kind of like a psychedelic journey at this point.”
Do you feel like you accomplished all of that on the project? Or do you have more to say?
I feel like there’s always more, because I was hoping to go on a tour with the album, but it was released within the middle of a pandemic. I feel like there’s a lot of activations and things that I wanted to get across, and physical things that I wanted to do. But, you know, I was able to do one pop-up in Calabasas. I wanted to do festivals. I wanted to be able to talk to more people openly about it. I wanted to shoot music videos, which I have now done. But yeah, I feel like besides the obvious stuff that we’ve all been going through throughout the past two years, I feel like I did accomplish it. And I feel like I did get the point across. Even for some of my favorite artists, I wanted to lay the groundwork for people so that whenever they do go through that time in their life that it’s there for them.
The visuals seem to draw inspiration from the Summer of Love in the ’60s. What about that time connected with you, especially with you having a psychedelic journey of your own?
I feel like the idea of peace and love, openness, and flower power just shows how connected people could be in those times. I watched Summer of Soul, talking about the festival that happened in Harlem in 1969, as well as Woodstock. There were so many beautiful things that were happening, and so many terrible things that were happening around that time, and yet, there were still groups of people that were trying to find the best of it. I feel like it had a lot of correlation to the times that we’re going through right now, and I really wanted to represent that and the world and these times. I really wanted to represent rainbows and flowers as well as understanding and taking part in everything that’s going on in the world and all of the things that have been happening. I wanted to tap into that energy because I felt like there wasn’t a lot of people tapping into that too much musically, especially not as a rapper. I also wanted to take the big leap as a rapper, honestly, to go to the extreme “other place.” I hadn’t seen that be done before.
What’s the motivation behind ending The Cool Tapes series?
Third time’s the charm. I made Cool Tape Vol. 1, which was literally my first album ever. Then I grew a little bit and I made Cool Tape Vol. 2, and that was awesome. Then I went on to make real albums. I made Syre, and then I made Erys, then I made Sunset Tapes. And then I’m like, “Okay, now let me go back to making a mixtape, and let me update people on what’s happening.” I don’t know, I’ve never heard of a mixtape that was alternative psychedelic rock. So, I was like, “That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” and then I did it.
Where do you see this next chapter in music for you? Do you plan on pursuing this alternative rock sound further, or is there something else you’re interested in?
I’m going to keep on bouncing around. I’ve been here on this alternative sound for, like, two full years, which has never really happened before. I always just do one album and then I leave, but now that I’m about to release all of these visuals for this album at the end of summer, I’m really closing out the chapter to leave it open-ended for the future. But I think that I’m probably not going to release any music for a while.
So you don’t intend on releasing another album?
Are you going to focus on your philanthropic work or do you just want people to digest what you already put out?
I think I’m focusing on a lot of other things, and my philanthropic work would be one of those things.
“I’m probably not going to release any music for a while.”
How would you describe yourself as an artist in 2021, and how has that changed after a crazy year like 2020?
I wouldn’t describe myself as an artist, honestly. I don’t know that I would say anything, and I think that’s a part of it. I think it’s kind of left up to how people see it, and I feel like that’s the funny part. You could ask somebody, “What does Jaden Smith do?” and one person will say one thing, and somebody will say something else, and there would almost be no agreement. That’s kind of how it is.
I wonder how you package yourself then? From my understanding, Jaden Smith is the philanthropist and Jaden is the musician. So how do you see yourself maintaining all of those identities in one?
You know, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. I don’t know how it’s going to work. I’m kind of just doing it one day at a time, just figuring it out. So I really don’t know how it’s going to manage in the future, or how it may evolve.
You and Justin Bieber released “Falling For You” 11 years after “Never Say Never.” How have you two maintained that friendship and working relationship over the last decade?
That’s just my homie. That’s just my guy, that’s one of my best friends in the whole world. It’s just that simple. I really cherish true friendship.
What responsibility do you feel as a public figure to try and change this world?
I think the responsibility just comes from being a human and by feeling like, “I’m a human, so I should be changing the world, and I also have a platform, so I should be changing the world.”
You’ve put a big emphasis on the environment, but what would you say is the biggest issue of our time?
The biggest issue of our time is definitely going to be the rising level of CO2 and greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere and making sure the Earth doesn’t go up in temperature. Even by, like, one degree. That would ruin everything.
How do you address the challenge of alerting the public to issues like that, because it can easily go over people’s heads?
I think that’s why I love to do the work that I do in sustainability, because you have to be able to explain it in a really simple way to young people. I feel like that’s something that I pride myself in, being able to take something that’s really complicated and I don’t really understand that well, and then find someone who can explain it to me and then find a way that I can explain it to other people. Specifically, people that are younger than me. I’ll be like, “Alright, here’s how it was explained to me, and here’s what’s happening.” I feel like that’s what I really want to do.
Your New Balance 574 collaboration is made with recycled materials. What do you hope to see change in the fashion industry in the next ten years as far as sustainability goes?
I think that it’s really important that sustainability is taken seriously and that people understand that we need to transition from sustainability into a thing called “drawdown,” where we don’t want to sustain where we’re at. That would be the worst thing that we could do. What we need to do is drawdown. We need to get to a place where CO2 is actively getting less and less. Every day there’s less CO2 in the atmosphere, that’s what we need, drawdown. We need to get people more familiar with those terms. There’s a group of people who wrote a book called Drawdown, and it literally details 100 of the most genius ideas and plans that are possible to reduce CO2 from the atmosphere. That’s what we need. That’s the future.
“The biggest issue of our time is definitely going to be the rising level of CO2 and greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere and making sure the Earth doesn’t go up in temperature. Even by, like, one degree. That would ruin everything.”
In May, it was reported that you’re opening a restaurant that will give free meals to the homeless. Is there any update on that development?
I’m waiting for certain COVID restrictions that are letting up now. That’s why we had to stop the restaurant in the first place when I first started doing it out of the food truck. We’d be down there every month giving away free food, and then COVID happened, and we had to stop. Now we’re moving towards plans to have a more permanent restaurant that’s not going to be inside a food truck. But yeah, I’m still waiting on certain COVID restrictions to lift because when you give people food, it’s a lot of different rules, but it’s going really well. I’m actually really excited to update people with what we’re doing.
You recently revealed that you met Elon Musk. Can you talk about your first interaction together?
What is your relationship like with social media these days?
I think I spend a lot of time deleting social media off my phone. Like, every other day or so I’ll delete social media off my phone. When I really don’t have to work, or when I don’t contractually have to post and make sure the right things are being posted, then I kind of just delete social media off my phone.
Can you talk about your MSFTS collection with Selfridges? Where do you see this brand going in the future?
It’s a collection that will be at Selfridges, and we’re really excited about it. We’re producing our clothes in Italy now. We’re really taking it to the next level, and we think that this collection is an organized rebellion within the youth. That’s how I describe it to people. These clothes are for people that are conscious, aware of the structures that are holding us down, and the different systems that are trying to hold us down. We’re aware of these things, and we’re actively pushing against them, and we’re trying to reconstruct a world that works more harmoniously with humanity. These clothes are just to represent that mission. So people who represent that mission can participate in the fashion and in the meaning behind what we’re saying as a walking billboard for the rebellion.
What role do you think you fill in rap right now?
I think I don’t have a lane. I think it’s just innovation. I just come into the game, and I innovate and people hate what I’m doing, then they wait a few years, and they do it. I know what my role is, so I don’t get mad at anybody for that. When it comes to fashion or hair, or styles of music or being emotional and crying in a music video. Then it becomes like a status quo thing. I think that’s my role in this, to innovate. Then everybody will hate on me, and I’ll take the hate and the blame, and then I can open up the lane for other people to do similar things. Just like the people that I look up to have done for me.
Do you feel underrated as a musician?
Not really. I’ll let the people speak for everything that we do. I kind of have a world that I live within where I don’t really pay that much attention to the things that are going on outside. I look at so many other people that don’t get the shine that they deserve, or that I believe that they deserve. Some of my favorite artists in the world, people don’t know who they are at all. I feel very happy with everything.
“I innovate and people hate what I’m doing, then they wait a few years, and they do it. I know what my role is, so I don’t get mad at anybody for that.”
Who are some of those artists that have been inspiring you lately?
The Babe Rainbow is one of my favorite artists. Tycho is one of my favorite artists. And this band The Lazy Eyes are some of my favorite artists, too, and they don’t get the recognition that they really deserve. These people are fricken amazing. But eventually they will, and that’s why I don’t have any feelings about me in the music industry, because the ones that really know, they tell me. When they see me, they tell me what’s up, and that’s all I care about. The people that I look up to and the people that everyone else looks up to, they come up to me and they say, “Yo, I saw what you did, and that shit is sick.” I feel like the people that I really care about are seeing me, and they’re seeing what I do. That’s the most important thing. And the fans. The fans see what we do, and they understand it, and they come out to the shows, and it’s sick.
There were a lot of big albums that came out this year, from Kanye West to Drake. Do you have a favorite album of 2021?
I have no comment.
With this next chapter, do you see yourself ever going back to music?
We’ll see. I could see a scenario where that could happen, but I don’t know. It just depends on what happens in the future, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.
What do you think your purpose is?