The 5’0, 38 year old black actress/producer/model/author and singer-songwriter Jada Pinkett-Smith is probably not what you think of when I say heavy metal, but sure enough, she is the lead singer of the rock band, Wicked Wisdom.
Wicked Wisdom is a heavy metal band, from what I can tell, composed of mostly black artists, yet you wouldn’t know it from the music. Their musical style could easily be branded as “angry white people music” without drawing too many objections from even the most racially conscious critics. You won’t see them on BET or at a black musical festival, but don’t be surprised however if you do see them banging their heads at Ozzfest.
The fact that there is a large disconnect between their racial identity and their intended audience has forced them to deal with issues that other rock bands don’t deal with as well as find strategies to give themselves a fighting chance at rock notoriety. When slated to appear at the rock festival, Ozzfest in 2005, the group and festival received a large amount of threats and disapproving comments because the mainstream heavy metal scene was not ready to see a pre-dominantly black group enter their music community. The organizers defended their choice and Wicked Wisdom went on to play to increasingly larger audiences, slowly gaining the respect of the rock music community.
After the tour, Jada said, “The first six shows were really rough. We had a steep learning curve. Those first few shows, the fans were brutal. By the time we got to show No. 7 the audience started to come around. By the end of the tour, during our last set, we had three mosh pits going while we were playing. The crowd was truly with us.”
Additionally, the race of the band has caused them to market themselves differently than other bands. If you look at their music videos and website, you would have no idea that they are in fact a predominantly black band. The images are chosen in such a way that promotes racial ambiguity so that people don’t have the chance to let their preconceived notions about race and music influence their reception of the music itself.
Wicked Wisdom – Bleed All Over Me
Wicked Wisdom is constantly fighting to prove that they belong and have paid their dues in order to be a legitimate rock band, in the same way that white artists like Eminem and Robin Thicke have had to prove their right to sing “black music.” These artists who have left the confines of traditional racial-musical categories have to work twice as hard and be twice as good as their opposite-race counterparts, which is an unfair yet harsh reality of racial identity and classification in this country.