Will Smith on Ozzfest: "it's the least African American event outside of that broom and big-ass hockey puck thing at the Olympics"

Will Smith
(Image credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Hollywood megastar and Grammy-winning rapper Will Smith would perhaps not be the first person that comes to mind when people think of legendary touring heavy metal festival Ozzfest, but metalheads of a certain vintage will recall Will's wife and fellow A-lister, Jada Pinkett Smith, playing the festival back in 2005 with her metal band, Wicked Wisdom.

While Wicked Wisdom ended up being largely embraced by the heavy metal scene - also playing a host of European festivals including Download in the mid-00s - Will is the first to admit that he wasn't sure how the band would be received in a genre that has historically had poor representation for black and female musicians.

In his memoir Will, published in November last year, Smith speaks about how Wicked Wisdom got booked for Ozzfest - and how he initially gently tried to talk Jada out of playing the festival.

"Ozzfest...featured all the metals," he writes. "Thrash, industrial, hardcore punk, deathcore, metalcore, post-hardcore, alternative, death, gothic and nu. Sharon [Osbourne, Ozzfest organiser] had seen Jada's band and some part of her understood.  She and Jada became friends, and Sharon put Wicked Wisdom on Ozzfest in summer 2005."

Smith goes on to reveal some hesitation at the idea of Wicked Wisdom being booked for Ozzfest, whose bill would also include a reunited Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Mudvayne, Rob Zombie, Killswitch Engage, Black Label Society and more. 

"Ozzfest is the least African American event outside of that broom-and-big-ass-hockey puck thing they do at the Olympics," jokes Smith, referring to curling. "'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."

As it happens, Wicked Wisdom didn't only go down well at Ozzfest, but made such an impact that they were invited to go out and tour with Guns N' Roses (albeit the Axl Rose And Friends edition of the band at that point).

"Ozzfest is a purist audience," Smith notes, "and what began as skepticism and dismissal, with every show was transformed first into silence, and ultimately into respect...Jada's appearance at Ozzfest was so successful that Guns N' Roses asked her to open for them on their upcoming tour."

Will would end up attending many of Wicked Wisdom's Ozzfest sets to support his wife, even appearing on stage with Boston metalcore band Bury Your Dead on one date of the festival in Virginia.

While Wicked Wisdom were ultimately unable to take up Gn'R's offer due to the Smith family's other commitments, it showed that Jada had no problem mixing it up with rock and metal's elite. Though Wicked Wisdom would disband in 2006, they made new headlines in 2021 when Will and Jada's daughter, Willow - who herself has recently ventured into alternative music - reunited the band to surprise Jada on Mother's Day.

Will Smith recently caused controversy around the world by physically assaulting comedian Chris Rock on stage at the 2022 Oscars following a joke made by Rock at Jada's expense. He has been banned from the Academy for ten years as a result. 

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.