is willow smith a riot grrrl?

In an interview following her Camp Flog Gnaw live set, the 15-year-old spoke about Kathleen Hanna’s influence on her high energy performance.

by Emily Manning
01 December 2015, 5:11pm

At Odd Future Wolfgang's recent Camp Flog Gnaw festival in LA, Willow Smith delivered a powerful live rendition of recently released single Why Don't You Cry (check its i-D-produced music video here). Swapping 808 hits for live percussion, the youngest Smith gave the track a little bit of a rock n' roll twist -- one she later revealed was inspired by riot grrrl.

In a post-show interview with DJ Skee, Smith said that for live shows, she "[tries] to channel certain people at certain performances." For Flog Gnaw, that meant the fiercely feminist musical movement: "I've been looking at a lot of Kathleen Hanna, riot grrrl, Bikini Kill, The Runaways -- all these different punk girl bands," Willow told Skee. "I just love the way that they perform -- how it's so outright, so emotional."

But it's not simply Hanna's energy that seems to have inspired Smith; Willow stepped on the Flog Gnaw stage in a tight black turtleneck, pleated mini skirt, thigh-high Alexander Wang x H&M socks, and a pair of Rihanna's Puma Creepers -- an ensemble pretty reminiscent of the Bikini Kill frontwoman's heyday. Smith styled her hair in mini pigtails, a look Hanna mastered, too.

Lately, Smith has been honing her production skills by experimenting with a diverse range of sounds from funk to futuristic Tracy Chapman-ish melodies. She told Skee her new album is "done" and will likely be released before the end of the year. "I had originally 26 songs for the album, but I looked at it and said 'you know, nowadays, the kids have a short attention span, so I think I should go in the teen area,' so I cut it down to 14." Given how dynamic and varied these Soundcloud efforts have been, it'll be exciting to see if riot grrrl's influence manifests in Smith's new sounds as well as her live performances. 

But wrapping up the short spot, Skee asked Willow what she'd like to be remembered for bringing to the world, to which she responded: "I don't want to put a label on myself." She might be cut from a purely punk cloth, but Smith's sound is all her own.


Text Emily Manning
Photography Tyrone Lebon
Styling Julia Sarr-Jamois

Hair Marcia Hamilton at Fr8me using Mizani
Make-up Steven Aturo at The Only Agency using Laura Mercier
Nail technician Marisa Carmichael at streeters
Photography assistance William Mathieu, Steven Gabriel
Styling assistance Bojana Kozarevic, Roberta Hollis, Sophia Phonsavahn, Victoria Zengo
Tailor Brian Frank
Production Rosco Production
Production Holly Gore at Dobedo Productions
Willow wears coat Miu Miu. Top House of Liza. Trousers Sonia Rykiel. Jewelry (worn throughout) Willow's own. Shoes TUK.

Camp Flog Gnaw
Riot Grrrl
Willow Smith
Kathleen Hanna