Jamila Woods has been blowing the industry away ever since she came on the scene just 4 years ago with her neo-soul and R&B sounds, as well her brilliant experimentation and melding of music with other forms of art, history, and organizing. She first became known as the featured vocalist on Chance the Rapper’s “Sunday Candy” in 2015, and then released her first album Heavn the following year. Woods grew up in Chicago and then was trained as a diasporic historian and poet at Brown University. Heavn is a heartwarming and powerful album that combines music and recordings of Woods herself to process grief, joy, and Black womanhood. She wrote poetry before releasing that album, and continued to write and incorporate poetry into her passion for community organizing as the the associate artistic director of Chicago’s Young Authors (CYA). CYA is a non-profit that seeks to amplify the voices of Chicago youth and teach the value of storytelling and creativity. Woods has said that she does not consider it possible to separate her organizing and educational work with her works of art.
Her sophomore album, Legacy! Legacy! came out May 10th, 2019, and is as much an artistic representation of a scholarly historiographic project as it is a collection of beautiful music. Woods explores the life and culture surrounding a different artist of color in each name-titled track, from the afro-futuristic science fiction of Octavia E. Butler to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s quiet resistance in his artwork. Some songs, like “MILES” are in first person, in which Woods assumes the identity of the subject. Others are much more a song about the subject like “MUDDY”, in which Woods uses her own voice to talk about how the artist lived and has since been received and treated by those around them and their critics. Legacy! Legacy! has a much less ethereal sound than her previous LP, as many of the tracks have a strong beat, but despite this change, the album is still a cohesive unit.. The only song that disrupts this cohesion is the final track, “BETTY (for Boogie),” a reprise of the first track, “BETTY,” remixed to honor Chicago house music – Woods tribute to Chicago in an album that does not center on her home as much as the rest of her work.
Come appreciate Woods and her groundbreaking work at the Brighton Music Hall this Saturday, June 1st!
Photos courtesy of Bradley Murray.