Willow Smith on Being Black and In the Metal Crowd

Willow Smith

Willow Smith inherited Jada Pinkett Smith’s love for rock music but always restricted herself to R&B. However, there was an itch to stretch her limits and explore rock music, but she kept withholding until the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to make use of the idle time recording rock music demos. Now we not only know her from her debut “Whip My Hair” but also her new pop-punk rock single, “Transparent Soul.” Her journey into embracing rock music was challenging, especially because Smith was bullied for being Black and in the metal crowd. She has overcome the criticism, and here’s her story, which will inspire you to break through the glass ceiling.

The Hate Began with Her Mother

When Smith was four, she would go on tour with her mother and the rock band, Wicked Wisdom. To the young girl, her mother was a superwoman who combined being a role model and nurturer at the same time. As Smith told NME, she was her mother’s biggest fan, riding on the security guard’s shoulders to watch Jada perform. The love for rock music seemed to have stemmed from there. However, it was not all a beautiful experience because Smith got to see how bad people can be, especially when they don’t like your skin color. She saw her mother getting death threats while on tour; some came in the form of letters while others were physical, fans throwing stuff at Jada while she performed and hurling insults. Fortunately, Smith and her brother Jaden never got caught in the crossfire. Despite the hate, the “superwoman” did not let it interfere with her music. She performed gracefully, later advising her daughter that they would not focus on the hate; instead, they would concentrate on doing their best and being strong.

Smith Bullied for Her Music Preference

Since she was eight, Smith was trained to sing R&B; therefore, as she told W Magazine, she never thought of becoming a rock star. Smith feared that even if she dared to venture into rock music, she would sound like she was trying too hard because of her R&B training. Still, her love for rock music never died; even if Smith could not perform, at least she found a way to enjoy it. The young girl would listen to Avril Lavigne, My Chemical Romance, and Paramore in school, which unfortunately got her bullied. Her schoolmates figured since she was black, she was not supposed to listen to rock music. She remembered that when she posted a video of herself playing a riff from System of A Down, most white men commented negatively. Fortunately, amid the hate, Smith found out that one bassist had reposted the video on his Instagram, which was enough encouragement for the girl to keep pursuing her musical interests. The Smith family is not new to bullying; besides the mother and daughter being bullied for being in the metal crowd, Jaden has received backlash for his choice of dressing. According to Mic, Smith revealed that the Black community has always shunned her and her brother for being different.

Moving Past the Bullying

Despite the criticism, the entire Smith family has never allowed the bullies to win. Therefore, while some have been complaining about being in the lockdown for too long, Smith utilized the free time. She got in the studio, ready to explore her metal music side and achieve her musical vision. Between the ages of 13 and 16, the 20-year-old had idolized Lavigne, so it was logical to collaborate with the rock star. According to Paper Magazine, she sent Lavigne her “Grow” song and was pleasantly surprised when Lavigne got back to her; the song will be in her upcoming album. Smith also called on Travis Baker to listen to “Transparent Soul,” and she was worried it would not appeal to him, but the Blink-182 drummer loved it. Her reservations were because she claims not to have an R&B or rock voice. Consequently, it took her a few demos to get to where she wanted to be; she revealed that the demos she did before, “Transparent Soul,” did not hit the mark. Luckily, so far, those she wants to collaborate with have proven she has nothing to fear. The new single, which she uploaded to YouTube on April 27, 2021, has already garnered fans, and so far, it has over five million views.

Other Rock Musicians Who Can Relate to Smith’s Plight

Alexis White, another Black woman who fronted a heavy metal band, Straight Line Stitch, shared her predicament of being in the metal crowd. She had always loved music, which was her creative outlet, but the reality of doing rock as a Black woman hit her when the band performed in Detroit. She was called the n-word while performing and felt so humiliated that she ran off the stage crying. She understood that the hate was because of her skin color, reasoning that the reception would have been positive if she were White. White was not wrong, and the racism extended to other races. Eddie Van Halen and his brother Alex were also victims of racial discrimination despite Eddie being honored as one the greatest guitarist that ever lived. The brothers of Dutch and Indonesian heritage grew up in the Netherlands, where they were referred to as “half-breeds.” The hate worsened when the parents moved to America, and the late guitarist said his first day in school was horrifying. The fact that the brothers didn’t know English made life at school a nightmare. Fortunately, the Black kids could relate and became friends with the two Van Halen brothers, but the Whites bullied them. Despite it all, the brothers became rock legends who were an inspiration to other people of color, and Smith can look up to them to attain her musical vision.

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