Willow Smith’s introduction to the mainstream music audience was with her 2010 hit record “Whip My Hair.” However, the famous offspring of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith has since charted the less diverse worlds of alternative and rock music.
Last year, Willow debuted her first metal album, Lately I Feel Everything. “I don’t like to box myself into anything. I was trained to be an R&B singer, so I went in that direction. But I’ve always had a huge affinity for rock music ever since I was just a wee bean,” she explained in Glamour UK’s September cover story.
While the choice of genre may have come as a surprise to some listeners, the youngest of the Smith clan said her love for rock and alternative music stems from her mother’s own experience as an artist. She recalled watching Jada “as a Black woman in this crazy metal scene. I was like, ‘Hell, yeah!’ I loved it.” But watching the actress-singer was not full of wonderment. Willow also bore witness to the harsh reality of a Black artist infiltrating a predominantly white music scene.
The Nutty Professor actress has been a part of the nu-metal band Wicked Wisdom since the early 2000s. “Oh, my goodness. She was getting death threats. It was a crazy amount of stuff going on. I remember being like, ‘Yo! People are really upset about this; they’re mad that a Black woman wants to do metal and is in the space. Like, that was activism,’” she said.
Even knowing the challenges the “Reckoning” rocker faced, Willow was not deterred from expressing herself outside of the pop and R&B genres. “I don’t like to box myself into anything,” she declared. “When I wanted to do a rock album, there were a lot of executives that were like, ‘Hmm.’ If I had been white, it would’ve been completely fine, but because I’m Black it’s, ‘Well… maybe let’s just not,’” said the “Purge” singer. She noted that, at times, music executives have even made the process of creating and releasing new music a challenge. “I go through that. Every single other Black artist is getting the pushback,” she said.
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