Chicago native and soul singer Jamila Woods released her second studio album, “LEGACY! LEGACY!,” on May 10. Her debut album, “Heavn,” was released in 2016 and features tracks like “VRY BLK” and “BLK Girl Soldier.” By teaming up with influential artists within the Chicago community for features, such as Noname and Chance The Rapper, Woods has exemplified that she has great power throughout the music industry.
However, to call Woods just an artist is an understatement. In reality, she is a poet, a political activist and a singer. Her song titles and artistry reflect how her music is shaped to be politically charged and powerful, while also maintaining a feeling of effortlessness.
Her new album, “LEGACY! LEGACY,” is rooted in her love for poetry. The Chicago musician recently did an interview with France 24, where she explained how the two mediums inform each other. “I had written a song called ‘GIOVANNI,’ the first single basically inspired by Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Ego Trippin,” which I teach a lot in my poetry workshops,” Woods said. “Then I had happened to write another song inspired by a poem about Muddy Waters, and at that point, I kind of like when I noticed a pattern in what I’m doing. So, I just made a list of people who I would like to write songs about, or songs titled after who mean a lot to me.”
Woods showcases her poetic nature and instinct in each song on “LEGACY! LEGACY!,” while gliding effortlessly over funky, soulful beats. She sometimes sounds as if she is performing through spoken word on the album when she goes into rap-like riffs, breaking out of her soothing vocals, which allows more emphasis to be put on certain lines.
In the opening track, “BETTY,” which she named after Betty Davis, an iconic funk and soul singer, Woods speaks on how Davis was seen as a pioneer of her time, alluding to the power and bravery Davis exhibited by baring her soul and being unapologetically herself in a time where it was likely that she wouldn’t be accepted. “Oh I’m different, I’m a cup of mild sauce,” she sings. “Sweet Tongue, but don’t get me in a paper cut. I’ll fight you with my eyes, oh, when they call me shy. They just frightened of what’s in my mind. These great greats won’t let me lie.”
Woods uses her inspiration to gain a new perspective that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to understand. Throughout the album, she mentions an overwhelming feeling that her inspirations are with her, saying that that she can feel them within her own body. This sensation is represented in the track titled “GIOVANNI,” where she sings, “My ancestors watch me, Fairytale walking, Black Goldilocks, yeah.”
Woods continues to explore this theme in another track, “SONIA,” which she named after the poet Sonia Sanchez. In it, Woods sings, “My great, great granny was born a slave. She found liberation before the grave. Who you tellin’ how to behave?”
In the bridge, she speaks the strength that she feels into existence. “I knew I could do it ‘cause if my blood went through it, I knew I could endure it, I knew that I could heal it,” sings Woods.
Another powerful theme that the artist intertwines into “LEGACY! LEGACY!” is how almost all of her inspirations were not only pioneers when it came to art but also pioneers in terms of black culture. More importantly, they owned their blackness and gave many others confidence in who they are in an honest, vulnerable and unapologetic way.
Woods wrote a track, titled “ZORA,” named after the famous writer Zora Neale Hurston. “I love Zora Neale Hurston,” Woods told France 24. “She wrote novels, she wrote more essays about culture, black culture, and she did a lot of anthropological work in the South. During her time, I think she was kind of controversial because a lot of her writing would be written in the dialect of the way black people would actually talk, and it was a politics of representation at the time where that was seen as something that was kind of risqué to do.”
These ideologies are woven into the lyrics of “ZORA.” Woods sings, “Must be disconcerting how I discomb’ your mold. I’ve always been the only, every classroom, every home. Kiss of chocolate on the moon, collard greens and silver spoon. Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes you can’t stick unto me.”
Woods sings directly about how Hurston advocated for proper representation of black culture, and how she conducted her art in a way that was not meant to please white people. She promoted her ideas in an honest, bold and determined way.
“LEGACY! LEGACY!” is a true masterpiece of its own. Woods’ shine and power behind her poetic words and her connection to her inspirations and ancestors gives her the ability to mold soul and jazz together like a quilt. Her nature of speaking her truth and representing her culture throughout the album, while singing delicately over hypnotic beats, will leave you entranced — feeling powerful and unstoppable.