Willow Smith Just Surprise-Released Her Debut Album; You Didn’t Really Think She’d Do Things the Traditional Way, Did You?

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Expand your mind. Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Young philosopher Willow Smith has quietly been releasing some very good music in the process of refining her sound since her also very good "Whip My Hair" breakthrough in 2010. (We recommend revisiting last year's blissful 3 EP if you don't believe it.) Finally, after teasing the date December 11 on Twitter for over a week, she's surprise-dropped her debut album Ardipithecus, a nod to the evolution of both herself and humankind. As the teen daughter of two famous parents — her dad, Will, just picked up a Golden Globe nom for Best Actor yesterday — you might expect them to be heavily involved in this project, but that just means you haven't been paying attention: Willow wrote and self-produced most of the 15-song album, collaborating only with her older brother Trey (credited as AcE) and her friend JABS, who appears frequently on Willow's gem of a SoundCloud.

She's a young auteur whom many will either dismiss or praise as the spiritual successor of Erykah Badu for their boundary-pushing and supposed hippie lifestyle, but I'd argue Willow has even more of an experimental edge. This album, like so many this year, is genreless ("Classification and organization is ruining the minds of our generation," she laments on the intro), and it's as fixated on time as Adele's 25, but for entirely different reasons. Willow believes there's a genuine discrepancy between her actual age (15) and her mental maturity ("I am the oldest one, but up in my mind and not in real time"), and she's also deeply fascinated with time as a concept and structure by which we measure all life forms. Our advice: Come at this album as open-minded as Willow was when she made it.