Jamila Woods’ new album is a blissful exploration into America’s troubled history

Jamila Woods’ new album is a blissful exploration into America’s troubled history

Words by Jonathan Reynoso

The Chicago singer is quickly solidifying herself quite the reputation.

The latest album from Chicago-based singer Jamila Woods casts her attention to some of the most influential black figures in history. Her latest record LEGACY! LEGACY! is a 49-minute history lesson on the singer’s influences, wrapped in blissful R&B.

All 13 tracks namecheck a legendary figure – some artists deeply ingrained in our pop culture appear: ‘MUDDY’, ‘MILES’, and ‘FRIDA’, though some lesser known characters are present.

Poet Zora Neale Hurston wrote about the racial struggles of African Americans in the 1930s. She is the centre of the track ‘ZORA’, a song that finds Woods channelling the literary icon. “None of us are free, but some of us are brave,” she sings, later adding, “Your words don’t leave scars, believe me, I’ve heard them all.” The track is dedicated to handling criticism with the utmost grace.

‘OCTAVIA’ honours the science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler. Spacey synth leads and programmed drums bring Butler’s sci-fi vision to life. Poet Sonia Sanchez gets a shout out on ‘SONIA’, with the hook “It was bad” lifted from one of her poems.

The entirety of LEGACY! LEGACY! is arranged with class. There’s a banquet of flavours to feast on. Take the track ‘GIOVANNI’ with its honeyed bass grooves gently guiding the song before closing with an explosive guitar solo. The analogue synth of ‘MILES’, a track dedicated to the jazz legend, Miles Davis, would fit comfortably somewhere in the artist’s mid-‘70s output. ‘FRIDA’ is held up by a sunburnt hip hop beat while ‘BETTY’ is like a futuristic vision of where R&B may be in a few years.

There’s nothing but legends appearing in spirit across LEGACY! LEGACY! As Woods expertly celebrates those who paved the road for her success.