Originally Published: April 5, 2006
By Nick Caruso
“I can’t believe that’s her,” my friend shouted to me as we watched Wicked Wisdom tear up the stage last week in Hartford. Her initial feelings of disbelief were anything but surprising, as I could barely believe it myself.
Wicked Wisdom may seem like a new name to some, but the band has been around for almost five years. The band consists of guitarist/songwriter Pocket Honore, Fish (previously of the Cali-based ska band Fishbone) on drums, Rio on bass, Cameron “Wirm” Graves on rhythm guitar and Jada Pinkett-Smith on vocals.
Yes, Jada Pinkett-Smith in a metal band. Surprised?
If you’ve been to last year’s Ozzfest, you might’ve seen them. Wicked Wisdom scored a gig on the second stage of the Ozzfest after Sharon Osbourne caught one of their shows in Los Angeles. According to Pinkett-Smith, one of the bands happened to drop out of the bill and Osbourne happened to enjoy their set. It was a chance of a lifetime that happened…well, by chance.
“It was fun [touring with Ozzfest]. You get to test your material in front of a different audience every day, an audience who’s never heard your material before,” said Honore.
Opening for Sevendust, the Webster Theater show on March 29 was the second time the tour hit Connecticut this year, yet metal heads and fans packed the venue to the max. Wicked Wisdom delivered an action packed, scream-fest full of ear-splitting guitars, a double bass drum, and more rage and anger than a drunken, abusive husband.
Having only one release, the set was comprised of seven of the ten songs. Having heard the CD before, I was anxious to see if the band could live up to the sounds produced on the disc. In person, they broke all my negative expectations and definitively proved their tagline: “This ain’t no R&B sh*t.”
Opening with a solid version of “One,” Wicked Wisdom hit the stage hard. As the band began thrashing, heads began turning. At its conclusion, “One” silenced the audience’s chatter, drawing all further attention directly toward the band.
Pinkett-Smith can and knows how to kick a** on stage. During “Cruel Intentions,” she stood on the barrier screaming at the crowd, taunting them to get moving in the mosh pit. Throughout “Reckoning,” she hit all the high notes with ease, continually jumping up and down and running back and forth during Honore’s solos.
For the rest of the band, this is nothing new. Most have been in bands prior to Wicked Wisdom. For ska-vet Fish, the metal scene is a polar opposite, yet he notes that it’s been a great experience.
“I’m having a blast,” said Fish, commenting on the plunge into metal. “I’m pushing my skills. It’s good to be playing with my friends,” he said.
To prepare for such a high-octane set, the members all note different pre-show rituals. Most of the guys blast metal on the bus (some of their favorites include Candiria and Black Label Society) and have a few beers, but for Pinkett-Smith, preparation is somewhat different.
“I pray,” she said. “I really chill. I get in chill mode. I conserve all my energy. I bring it all in so that when I get on stage I can pop!”
She stresses the word “pop” and shakes her head with vicious attitude, almost like you would’ve seen her do as Niobe in “The Matrix” sequels. The rest of the band snickers, leading to a brutally honest, larger-than-life burst of laughter from Pinkett-Smith. Everyone else laughs too, but we all know she’s dead serious.
It’s this positive attitude that makes her a prime candidate for the lead in a band like Wicked Wisdom, and it’s this charisma that helps them conquer their critics. The band agreed, the only expectations they had to overcome were by those people who “expected us to suck.”
“It’s not like we’ve had expectations [from people] like ‘Oh, they’re gonna kill,'” said Pinkett-Smith. “Those are the expectations that are hard to overcome. When people come in going ‘They’re gonna suck. This is going to be the worst musical experience we’ve ever had,’ then it’s like every little thing you do is like ‘Oh, sh*t! Godda*n!'”
“Once they see what we do and how good of a band we are, then they’re like ‘You’re very intense. How come you aren’t bigger?'” said Rio.
With Wicked Wisdom’s slow-and-steady rise to a well deserved career breakthrough, Pinkett-Smith proves that the boundary between acting and music can be achieved.
“As an actress you are participating in someone else’s idea–how they perceive the whole project,” she said. “With music, you get to be the paint brush, the paint, the canvas, the whole deal. In music, what makes it even more vulnerable is that we’re putting our life on that stage. Our lyrics and our heart and soul go on that stage every night. That’s Jada up there…that’s not Niobe.”