Get heavy with it

Down and dirty with Mrs. Smith
By JON GARELICK  |  August 10, 2006

EXTREME: Love it or hate it, Pinkett Smith is in Wicked Wisdom for real.
It’s a late weeknight and I’m washing dishes in the kitchen when I hear my wife’s voice from down the hall: “Come look at this!” On the tube is a hardcore metal quintet slamming through speed riffs; up front is someone with a head of bushy black hair in baggy jeans and a baggy red sweatshirt singing on a rising melody: “Something inside of me. Is. PISSED!” The band take off on another riff. “Wait until they come back to the chant thing,” Clea says. The chant thing? Don’t they call that rap? But it isn’t. “Strangled. Virtue. Shallow. Holes. Whisper. This. Hate. Within. My. Soul.” One. Word. Per. Bar. Staccato. Not rap flow, a chant. The singer is glaring, snarling, eyes flashing. “He’s really good, isn’t he?” Clea says. “You mean she.” “What? No!” It’s a pint-sized female Zack de la Rocha as far as I’m concerned. The band go through another verse, downshift into reverse-chord-metal mode for the mosh, and now the whole front line are whipping their heads and hair up and down in the four-to-the-bar metal nod. What the fuck! How did this get on Letterman? Yes, they have cool bands on Letterman, alternative bands, even heavy bands. But this is like 2 in the afternoon at the Palladium for the NE Metal Fest. This is the old Bunratty’s on a Tuesday night with the openers for Sam Black Church. All-ages show metal, is-that-my-front-tooth-on-the-floor metal.

The singer has her foot up on the monitor, with the classic “Hail Mary” upraised arm of metal. The song ends. Letterman’s chuckling off camera, “Oh my!”; then he’s on screen, hugging the singer. “You’re not kidding around, are you?”

Indeed not, but who were they? Wicked Wisdom, Letterman says.

The next morning I check in at work with the resident metal expert. “No man, guess I’m out of the loop . . . ” Then, checking the Web: “Wait, that’s Jada Pinkett Smith’s band.” No way. I know Jada Pinkett Smith. Wife of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Does movie-junket interviews on Letterman in little mini-dresses and high heels, glossy make-up and straight black hair. A bit giggly-Hollywood. But then there was Collateral. Gravitas. Deep. The woman who made her bones in Menace II Society. That was hip-hop. But not this. Not this get-the-fuck-outta-my-face metal band? No way!

Way. Pinkett Smith, on the phone from LA, laughs when I tell her the story. So, was Letterman in on it?

“Oh yeah, he knew exactly who I was. But I asked him just to mention the band. Because I don’t like to start out with ‘Jada Pinkett Smith’s band Wicked Wisdom.’ It opens people more to the music, like ‘Oh my God, Jada, what is she doing?’ ”

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