In April, Willow Smith, the 20-year-old singer who performs as Willow and is the daughter of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, released a rocking single called “Transparent Soul” featuring Travis Barker.
Now that she’s done so, Willow spent some time with V magazine reflecting on how her formative years as a rock and metal fan listening to My Chemical Romance and Paramore got her bullied because she’s Black. She suggests a similar force still affects her today while “being a Black woman in the metal crowd.”
The conversation between Willow and Alexis White, a Black woman who led metalcore band Straight Line Stitch, emerged online this week (June 7), with Willow featured on the digital cover of the mag’s current issue. The rock connection runs deep, as Jada, Willow’s mother, fronted the metal act Wicked Wisdom.
“Being a Black woman in the metal crowd is very, very different on top of the pressures that the music industry puts on you,” Willow explains of her personal experiences. “Now, it’s like an added pressure of the metal culture, the metal world, and just rock in general. I used to get bullied in school for listening to Paramore and My Chemical Romance.”
White responds by adding, “Yeah, there’s a lot of, ‘Hey, you’re Black. You’re not supposed to listen to that.'”
“Exactly! And it’s not OK,” Willow says. “Just through the music that I’m putting out right now and the representation that I can bring to the mix, I just hope that the Black girls who are listening to my music and listening to this album see that there’s more of us out there. It’s a real thing, you’re not alone. You’re not the only Black girl who wishes she could flip her hair to the side and wear black eyeliner, you know what I mean?”
Rock fans will probably be seeing a lot more of Willow and that empowering message after her first foray into pop-punk with “Transparent Soul.” Before that, she released the albums The Anxiety (2020, with Tyler Cole), Willow (2019), The 1st (2017) and Ardipithecus (2015). Her debut single, “Whip My Hair,” broke in 2010.
Willow feat. Travis Barker, “Transparent Soul”
Rock + Metal Songs With Social Messages
Music has the power to move people. It also has the power to move them to action.