Willow & Jaden Smith. The Smith kids have been paving their own path & creating their own wave of alternative R&B, neo-soul, hip-hop & rock music as well as creating a new way of thinking about the world and the way we treat the Earth & the people who live upon her. As Black kids who come from famous parents who were very big in hip-hop & urban culture through TV, movies & music throughout the ‘90s a lot of people in the Black community were very hard on Willow & Jaden because they were “different”. But in the recent 2-3 years the culture has had a new awakening & is more open to what Willow & Jaden have to offer. Let’s talk about how we got here & how we see “weird” Black kids in our community.
It’s 2010 & Jaden is starring in the Jackie Chan remake of “The Karate Kid”. Willow puts out her first single “Whip My Hair”.
These two moments were the moments that Jada Picket-Smith & Will Smith tried to turn their kids into “industry kids”. Make Jaden the movie star & Willow the pop star at 11 & 9 something I’m not sure either child wanted to do at least not in that “hollywood” way. Both Jaden & Jada talk about the very difficult filming schedule & physical training aspects of filming the Karate Kid. Jaden being this young kid felt very vulnerable during this time but didn’t want to let his father down who is this big movie star. Willow putting out Whip My Hair & being signed to Jay-Z was something Will & Jada came up with for Willow to put her in a position to continue the Smith family music dynasty. Willow went along with it at first of course & would release a couple more songs one of them ft. Niki Manaji. In the end both Jaden & Willow (especially Willow) felt too much pressure at a very young age to perform & act in a certain industry way & called it quits shortly after their movie & songs came out.
After their run in the Hollywood lifestyle both Jaden & Willow took some time off to find themselves. Jaden while he did do some more movies & one with his dad (which is subjective whether it was good or not) took some time off to focus on his music & his clothing & lifestyle brand “MSFTSrep”.
Willow on the other hand had a little bit of a harder time coping with this time in her life. After basically telling her parents that that pop star lifestyle wasn’t for her, she went down this depressive self harming path. Willow went through a few years where she was trying to figure out what her next move was in her life.
Willow had cut all her hair off & released this very important song about self love called I AM ME. This song was the first true glimpse of who Willow wanted to be as a person & as a musician she just didn’t know where that would take her.
At first she didn’t think she wanted to do music anymore but the music kept calling to her. Around these times Willow & Jaden were being homeschooled & were getting a lot more into science & spirituality. Then in 2014 Willow reimigred with her cute TWA & a 3 song EP called III which ft. Jaden & SZA on a couple tracks. The vibe of this EP was more alternative R&B, neo-soul, low-fi, space sounding, soundcloud music. This EP had more deep lyrics then anything she had put out before & she was talking about a lot of metaphysical & spiritual topics on it which if you are not educated in that kind of knowledge would have sounded like a bunch of nonsense.
At the same time Jaden was releasing mixtapes on soundcloud & twitting up a storm about science & the way we see the world. Most people thought Jaden was crazy & made jokes about his tweets. Then in 2014 Jaden & Willow did an interview with T Magazine which got the entire world up in a frense & is one of the biggest reasons that most people, especially Black people at the time had this negative image of Willow & Jaden. In this interview Jaden & Willow talk about a lot of science & spirituality through the books & teachings they were being taught through their homeschooling. They talk about topics such as Quantum Physics, The Pyramids, Time Being Relative, The Ancient text they were reading & so much more. This got the public to officially claim the Smith kids as scientologist & part of the Illuminati. One article or Youtube video after another was bashing them & making them out to sound like the biggest weirdos on the planet like they had lost their minds. Apparently two Black celebrity kids (or just Black kids in general) can’t be well educated & want to learn about things beyond what they teach us in public school which is all lies anyway & doesn’t go as deep as we could go in order to keep us as little sheep never knowing the truth of anything.
After this interview Jaden & Willow continued to be the “weird” kids everyone made them out to be & would release more music as time went on. In 2015 Willow put out her first full length album Ardipithecus (stylized as ARDIPITHECUS) Ardipithecus is a genus of an extinct hominine that lived during the Late Miocene and Early Pliocene epochs in the Afar Depression, Ethiopia. This album is personally my favorite effort from Willow to date & is something I listen to at least one song from weekly. This was truly Willow’s this is who am I am weird, I am spiritual, I do care about science & I do care about Mother Earth & if you don’t like it tuff. This was a conscious raising album for the youth. She talked about Mother Earth, the divine, third eyes, scientific stuff & she even has a song on there based on a character from Adventure Time. Of course none of the mainstream reviews of this album were positive. As usual because Willow was talking about an Earth Based spirituality where she talked about the importance of Mother Earth, divine creators and things like that people wrote it off.
During this time Jaden was also continuing to put out music on soundcloud called the Cool Tapes to which people didn’t like those either & thought he was trying too hard to be edgy & alternative. Another big thing that made a lot of people turn heads around the Smith kids was when Jaden wore a dress or a skirt. Jaden was asked to model for Louis Vuitton Skirts for their Womenswear line in 2016 & even before that could be seen around town wearing a dress. Again the general public specifically Black folks were having no parts of this. Even at times Will Smith himself felt some time of way due to being a ‘90s rapper & being in a lot of big action movies but over time came around to his son’s form of expression.
In 2017 Willow released her second full length album called 1st. This was Willow a lot more polished then on her debut as she was learning how to play the guitar & used a lot more live instruments on her album. This album also has a lot of my favorite Willow songs on it & again is another album that if you’re not knowledgeable about a lot of spiritual things the lyrics might not hit as well but it also has a lot of songs about relationships & heartbreak so it’s an album I can see working for even a mainstream listener. This was also although it had always been there this was the album where her BEAUTIFUL voice began to shine through on a lot of tracks. In between this & her 3rd studio album *self titled* Willow put out a few songs on her soundcloud & one that got a lot of traction was her song “Cave Walls”.
In 2016 Jaden was cast to star in a Netflix show called “The Get Down” which aired on the streaming site from 2016- early 2017 only receiving two seasons. This was the story of the early days of hip-hop & how it was created through the eyes of a group of teenagers in the Bronx. His character Dizzy was the free spirit of the group & was into graphic art & graffiti. He calls himself an alien & falls in love with his white boy named Thor, another graphic & graffiti artist. This role felt like it was Jaden just playing himself in the late ‘70s. A free spirited child in a hypermascalin genre like hip-hop even then was really beautiful to see & it felt like Jaden was just channeling himself for this role.
2017 was also the year that Jaden crossed that mainstream threshold & finally got the recognition he deserved when he put out his album Syre (which is his middle name & the name his mom wanted to name him) & the song “ICON” went viral. He made it Boys! 🙂 Will Smith was even featured on a remix of the song & did a parody of the music video. This song was huge & was everywhere. This was also around the time Jaden became even a bigger activist when it comes to the environment, specifically the ocean & our drinking water.
In 2010 Jaden was learning about all the plastic in the ocean & how it is polluting our waterways & effecting the fish & other sea creatures in school and decided to do something about it. So in 2012 Jaden along with Drew Fitzgerld created Just Water. Just Water is a sustainable water bottle company that doesn’t use plastic & is sourced from a small town who gets paid double what they offer to outsource the water. In recent years Jaden has taken Just Water & created a small non-profit called 501cTHREE which has helped him to create a water filtration system called the Water Box which filters out lead and other toxic things in our water. He has since donated a Water Box to the residences of Flint & just this year those in Newark, New Jersey received a box which helped to replace the millions of plastic bottles that were being shipped over to these cities.
In 2019 Willow & Jaden also participated in the big national Climate rally that was held in New York as well as all over the country with their good friend Xiuhtezcatl Martinez who has been fighting against the Climate Crisis since he was very little. Jaden & Xiuhtezcatl also wrote a song together. In 2020 as the election to see who would be president came about Jaden became very involved in helping to get young people out there to vote. He also was very big into helping to fight for BLM after the wrongful death of Breana Taylor.
In 2018 he released The Sunset Tapes, in 2019 he released EYRS a companion to his record SYRE & in 2020 released his Cool Tape Vol. 3 which is his most recent project to date which has a more upbeat ‘60s inspired vibe to it.
While Jaden was busy being an activist, Willow was also being a activist while putting out more music like her 2019 album *self titled* Willow. Willow is probably her most commercially well received album to date & is her most growth as an artist we have seen so far. In late 2019 I attended the Willow & Erys tour here in DC & it was magical. Willow & Jaden’s grandmother came to the show with her husband & the vibe was high & Tyler Cole a long time family friend of the Smiths opened up for them & Jaden even played a video of Greta Thumberg the Switish Activist who is fighting the Climate Crisis before he went on & I got compliments on my outfit it was a nice concert & I felt at home.
Also starting in 2018 Willow along with her mom Jada & grandmother started a online show through Facebook watch called The Red Table Talk. It’s really an incredible show that highlights a lot of different issues many (especially in the Black Community) weren’t necessary ready or willing to talk about.
Once 2020 hit & the Pandemic became more of a real thing in our lives Willow put out two collaborative albums which reflected the times we were living in. The first album was with Willow’s very good friend Tyler Cole called The Anxiety (which is also the name of the band). This album had a very rock edge to it but also some of that alternative R&B vibe as well. Their first single to come out was Hey You! & of course I saw ignorant comments about it like she needed to listen to more Tupac as if her mom needed to get her into him more. For the release of the album Willow & Tyler spent 24 hours in a box where they both wrote out their anxieties on the glass & threw paint everywhere. Tyler Cole also shaved Willow’s hair after her having locs for 5 years. This was a very healing moment for both Willow & Tyler and it felt like the world before the pending Pandemic that was to come.
Then later in 2020 Willow & her friend Jahnavi Harrison put out a Kirtan praise & montra album where they did some chanting of ancient Sanskrit prayers and chants. I love this album. This is a very spiritual devotional album with the most beautiful lyrics & a lot of the chants & prayers were translated from Sanskrit to English so all can enjoy & revel in the beauty of this album. I also feel this album came out at the perfect time as so many people were suffering due to this pandemic and all that was happening in the world at the time.
In June 2021 Willow is fully in her rock bag & put out a single called Transparent Soul & it is the best thing ever. The overall reception of this single has been mostly positive all though you will also have those who will not understand why a Black woman would make rock music even though Willow has rock music in her veins as her mom was in a Metal band in the early 2000s called Wicked Wisdom.
Jaden also released a song called BYE which could be the first single to an album or mixtape.
So today Willow’s 4th studio album lately I feel EVERYTHING was released to the world & it is incredible! Willow really took the genre of Rock & made it her own. Like I said her song Transparent Soul has been getting a lot of buzz & many alternative Black kids have been gravitating towards it heavily. She has even been featured in magazines such as Alt-Press. She even shaved her hair again which looks really good on her & inspired her mom Jada to do the same.
Some of my favorite tracks off her new album is of course Transparent Soul, F**K You, Don’t Save Me, Naive, Lipstick, Come Home feat. Ayla Tesler-Mabe, 4ever, XTRA ft. Tierra Wack, Grow (Willow & Avril) & Breakout! ft. Cherry Glazer. This album goes through all different kinds of Rock music from Pop Punk, Alternative, a little Garage Rock, some Psychedelic riffs, & a little Grunge. Of course Grow with Avril gives you that feeling of being 13 again listening to Pop Punk music, Naive has some Psychedelic riffs at the end, Come Home just has some beautiful singing & Lipstick gives you that Garage Rock feel. Willow always strikes it out the park with these albums & I will always love how she brings her authentic self to each album she makes. Shoutout to Travis Barker for featuring on a few songs, Avril Lavigne, Tierra Wack, Ayla Tesler-Mabe, Cherry Glazer & Taylor Cole who helped to co-produce this album.
Now that we have talked about Jaden & Willow’s careers and who they are as people let’s talk about how the Black community has in a lot of ways failed them as young Black intelligent, spiritual, enlightened, different kids. The message that a lot of Black people have sent to Willow & Jaden over the years is a reflection of how we see the “weird” Black kids in our communities. That can mean a lot of things, anything from being the kind of a spiritual & enlightened kids like Willow & Jaden to being really into rock music to loving video games, comic books & Anime. Up until the 2010s it was a big struggle for many Black kids into these kinds of “left field” non-stereotypical things to be accepted in the community. We would get laughed at or made fun of or called all kinds of names because we liked things that the “white” general public didn’t deem acceptable for Black kids to like.
Also by calling a Black child who is very smart & enlightened about the world they live in “weird” is telling them that being dumb & uneducated is a cool Black thing to do & thinking outside of the box is not acceptable. At the same time the way Will & Jada raised Willow & Jaden felt weird to ya’ll too. The fact that Will & Jada decided to not punish their kids when they got in trouble but to treat them with respect & not talk down to them I feel was amazing. Yes you are my parents & I would never speak to you crazy but at the same time we are both humans who deserve respect because the only way to get respect is by giving it even to your kids. Now you can disagree & find that to be two relaxed but I feel that kids are more likely to do what you want them to do then when they feel respected by you. CPS was even called on Jada before when Willow was a kid which we all agree was most likely racially motivated. I just feel like from the time Willow & Jaden decided not to do the Hollywood thing in the same way that most celebrities’ kids would, you all have had a bone to pick with this family ever since.
I’m glad that with in the last few years most people have come around to Willow & Jaden and what they have to offer to the world but it just for a while felt like you all were attacking a group of Black kids who already feel vulnerable among their white peers & yet didn’t truly feel comfortable among their Black community either.
Anyway I hope you enjoyed my first blog of 2021. Remember all Black experiences are vailed.