The Smith family have been all over the news recently. Have you noticed? Since Will slapped the saliva out of Chris Rock’s mouth on worldwide television in 2022, he and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith – a comment about whom inspired the whole fracas – have been cross-examined by every pundit and armchair detective in the land. There’s one thing that seems to not be mentioned in this whole multimedia firestorm, however: for a brief stint in the mid-2000s, Jada fronted a nu metal band.
Wicked Wisdom, as this outfit were called, existed from 2002 to 2006. And, although now they’re an oft-forgotten curiosity in the history of music, back in the day they were the industry’s biggest darlings. They released their debut album in 2004 and followed it by touring with Britney Spears and taking slots on the two biggest rock festivals on either side of the Atlantic: Download and Ozzfest. Their second album, 2006’s Wicked Wisdom, was executive-produced by Will Smith himself and promoted by a stint on the road with Sevendust. But then… nothing.
According to interviews Jada gave about Wicked Wisdom, the Nutty Professor and Matrix sequels star is a lifelong fan of heavy music. “I listened to all kinds of metal as a kid,” she told MTV in January 2006. “Metallica, Guns ’N’ Roses… I would always look at Axl Rose and say, ‘Why aren’t there any chicks out there doing this now?’ I always wanted an opportunity to get out there and rock out.”
Jada had connections in the music industry long before she decided to grab a mic and scream out some metal. Of course, Will was a rapper up until 2005, but before their marriage she’d had a close friendship with Tupac Shakur in the early 1990s. So, when the actor decided to perform on heavy music’s stages, she was easily able to make some phone calls and corral a lineup. Guitarist Pocket Honore became her main collaborator, with the aforementioned MTV interview describing him as “the Zakk Wylde to her Ozzy”.
When Wicked Wisdom released their debut album, My Story, in 2004 then embarked straight on the Britney tour, their music was less metal than soul, hip-hop and rock ’n’ roll. It was playing live shows that organically ramped up the band’s sonic aggression, with Jada later commenting, “It just started getting heavier and heavier, and that’s when it clicked for us.”
The next year, Wicked Wisdom’s metal credentials were seriously amplified by the band getting on the radar of Sharon Osbourne. As Will Smith recalled in his autobiography Will, the reality TV star, manager and wife of Ozzy Osbourne caught the band live and decided to add them to the 2005 Ozzfest lineup.
“Ozzfest is the least African American event outside of that broom-and-big-ass-hockey-puck thing they do at the Olympics,” Will wrote in his book (via Metal Hammer). “‘Babe, are you sure you don’t wanna do some R and B?’ I asked softly, but I meant it hard. ‘[Metal] is the music I feel,’ Jada responded softly, but she meant it hard. So we packed up our children and headed down the black brick road to the land of Ozz.”
The 2005 Ozzfest run also brought Wicked Wisdom across the pond, as that year’s Download was billed as a clash of the titans that united the two rock festival monoliths. The band capitalised on the attention they’d amassed on those stages in February 2006, when they released their self-titled album. Reviews were moderately positive: Blabbermouth wrote, “Pinkett Smith does a convincing job with the aggressive vocals and her clean singing may not be stellar, but it is heartfelt and competent.” And, today, that album is the last remnant of Wicked Wisdom’s existence, as it’s their only music on Spotify.
After a supporting tour with Sevendust, Wicked Wisdom vanished. It’s been reported since that the reasoning was Jada wanting to spend more time with her family. However – with her being a successful actor and producer, and Wicked Wisdom then being two albums deep and not even touching the US Billboard 200 – commercial concerns were likely a pretty strong factor as well.
Today, Wicked Wisdom persist only in the minds of a persistent few, with their biggest song Bleed All Over Me not even having 500,000 Spotify streams. Jada’s daughter Willow Smith performed that track live with the instrumentalists of the band in 2021, giving them one last gasp of relevance, but don’t be surprised if that’s the last we ever hear of this short-lived nu metal experiment.