Willow Smith On Finding A Space In Rock Music As A Black Woman


The singer Willow Smith recently appeared in an interview with the Guardian and opened up about how her career and position in the rock scene is a form of activism.

Although rock music sprouted with the names such as Elvis Presley and the Beatles, African-American culture planted the first seeds of this genre. In fact, one of Presley’s aims was to introduce this African-American influence to a broad audience. Looking at rock and roll retrospectively, names such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, who explored the sound of rhythm and blues, came to the fore as the leading figures during the formation of rock and roll.

On the other hand, when we go even further back in the history of music, we come across influential black female representatives of the gospel, which is the root of rock and roll. Black female musicians such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe influenced names like Chuck Berry and Little Richard by integrating her spiritual lyrics with her electric guitar. In this way, as a black woman, she inspired the future female generations to find a place in the rock scene.

Willow Smith, who has been creating and taking the stage since a young age, recently stated in an interview that she found space for herself in the rock scene by following Tharpe’s path and wanted to do it as a political act. She explained that rock music originated from the blues with the names like Sister Rosetta; however, social and political reasons removed this reality from sight.

Smith stated some people still try to prevent people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ members from knowing and preserving their history, and according to her, the rock music scene is a place for these people’s expression of their freedom. She ended her words by describing rock music as a way of ‘activism’ and noted that Nina Simone’s ‘Mississippi Goddam,’ which turned into an anthem, powerfully displayed the culture.

Willow Smith said the following about finding a place in the rock scene:

“Claiming space in the rock world is a political act which is about stepping into places where marginalized communities haven’t been accepted and saying, I’m human, and I’m allowed here, too. One of my favorite musicians, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, was playing rock with an electric guitar in the 1940s. Blues was the birthplace of stone, but that history was put out of sight for social and political reasons. There are still many people who don’t want people of color, women, and people of the LGBTQ+ community to rise and know their history.

All of us should be allowed the freedom to express ourselves in all kinds of different ways, and one of those ways is rock music. Music is not just music; it is also activism. Throughout history, music has driven some of the most intense shifts in humanity’s thought processes. Nina Simone’s 1964 song ‘Mississippi Goddam,’ illuminated the culture in such a powerful way.”

It seems like Willow Smith considers her music career a form of activism besides enjoying creating artistic work. She believes that rock music is a good form of expression for her as a black woman and wants to uncover the hidden history of this genre. By expressing herself boldly, Smith spoke about the importance of rock music to black culture and encouraged other young black women to get on stage.