WILLOW recently sat down with NME and spoke about the racism she’s witnessed in the rock music scene. She remembered being introduced to the world of rock music through her mother, Jada Pinkett-Smith, who fronted Wicked Wisdom in the early 2000s. She would watch her mom play live and subsequently witness her being subjected to racist and sexist abuse.
“She showed me what being a woman is really all about,” WILLOW says. “There are literally no words to describe having to get up in front of people who literally hated her, every night. She did it with such grace and power. And at every single show, she won them over.
“By the end of the show, the people who were calling her racial slurs and throwing things at her were like, ‘Actually, they kinda went off’. That made it really worth it.”
WILLOW’s latest album, lately I feel EVERYTHING has shown a different musical side of the artist. While WILLOW’s previous albums have been more R&B focused, this new album is embedded with pop-punk sounds. It features Travis Barker and Avril Lavigne, who WILLOW describes as “pop-punk royalty.” She notes being influenced by groups like blink-182, My Chemical Romance and Paramore, which actually got her bullied in school, according to an interview with V magazine.
“My mom did her thing, as did so many other beautiful Black women, like Straight Line Stitch’s Alexis White,” WILLOW continued. “[The album]’s not about proving anything; it’s about continuing the legacy.”
It took WILLOW until her fourth studio album to really lean into the rock sound. When asked why the wait, she explained, “for a really long time, I just didn’t feel like I would measure up.”
“I had so much respect for the rock genre, but I didn’t know if I could give it exactly what it needed,” she says. “I was trained very specifically as an R&B singer and I had seen my mom screaming and doing it so perfectly.”
Acknowledging “a certain level of reckless abandon” within rock, WILLOW says, “ I think the magnitude of oppression that any minority in America has historically experienced, it puts something inside of us that makes us want to growl a little bit and scream.
“I think pop-punk is a very beautiful expression of that,” she added.
WILLOW is set to open for Billie Eilish during a select number of US shows on the Happier Than Ever world tour next year.
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