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JAMILA WOODS

Jamila Woods

Water Made Us

    On her expansive new album Water Made Us, Chicago musician and poet Jamila Woods shines anew as she asks the question, what does it mean to fully surrender into love? Across Water Made Us, Jamila embraces new genres, playful melodies, and hypnotizing wordplay, as she wades through the exhilarating tumult of love’s wreckage and refuge.

    While 2017’s HEAVN saw Jamila celebrating her community within a lineage of Black feminist movement organizing, and 2019’s Legacy! Legacy! reframed her life’s experiences through the storied personas of iconic Black and brown artists, Water Made Us is self-revelatory in an entirely new way, making this her most personal album yet. Made together with LA-based producer McClenney, and boasting features from longtime friends and Chicago natives such as Saba and Peter CottonTale, Water Made Us is a sprawling and intimate portrait of self-reflection, cleverly designed to echo the different stages of a relationship: the early days of easy compromising, flirtatiousness, and fun; the careful negotiation through moments of conflict or hurt; the grieving of something lost; and the tender realization at the end of it all that the person who is gone never really leaves, but stays with you as you find yourself ready to try again, refreshed and reassured.

    The album’s title -- taken from a line in album highlight “Good News” – is a subtle reference to the famous Toni Morrison quote “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.” It’s this sentiment – of memory, place, and returning – that acts as a pillar for the album’s arc. Water Made Us reminds us that at its best love is a warm, still ocean. Deep, shimmering, and endless in its wonder. And at its worst love can be a riptide that takes us so far away from ourselves we can hardly find our way back, hardly even remember how to swim. And yet Jamila surrenders to this surf — every wave and undertow – because maybe even the most painful endings can in fact be an invitation that calls her back home, back to shore, back to herself.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A:
    1. Bugs
    2. Tiny Garden
    3. Practice (feat. Saba)
    4. Let The Cards Fall
    5. Send A Dove
    6. Wreckage Room
    7. Thermostat (feat. Peter CottonTale)
    SIDE B:
    8. Out Of The Doldrums
    9. Wolfsheep
    10. I Miss All My Exes
    11. Backburner
    12. Libra Intuition
    13. Boomerang
    14. Still

    In the clip of an older Eartha Kitt that everyone kicks around the internet, her cheekbones are still as pronounced as many would remember them from her glory days on Broadway, and her eyes are still piercing and inviting. She sips from a metal cup. The wind blows the flowers behind her until those flowers crane their stems toward her face, and the petals tilt upward, forcing out a smile. A dog barks in the background. In the best part of the clip, Kitt throws her head back and feigns a large, sky-rattling laugh upon being asked by her interviewer whether or not she’d compromise parts of herself if a man came into her life. When the laugh dies down, Kitt insists on the same, rhetorical statement. “Compromise!?!?” she flings. “For what?”

    She repeats “For what?” until it grows more fierce, more unanswerable. Until it holds the very answer itself.

    On the hook to the song “Eartha,” Jamila Woods sings “I don’t want to compromise / can we make it through the night” and as an album, Legacy! Legacy! stakes itself on the uncompromising nature of its creator, and the histories honored within its many layers. There is a lot of talk about black people in America and lineage, and who will tell the stories of our ancestors and their ancestors and the ones before them. But there is significantly less talk about the actions taken to uphold that lineage in a country obsessed with forgetting. There are hands who built the corners of ourselves we love most, and it is good to shout something sweet at those hands from time to time. Woods, a Chicago-born poet, organizer, and consistent glory merchant, seeks to honor black people first, always. And so, Legacy! Legacy! A song for Zora! Zora, who gave so much to a culture before she died alone and longing. A song for Octavia and her huge and savage conscience! A song for Miles! One for Jean-Michel and one for my man Jimmy Baldwin!

    More than just giving the song titles the names of historical black and brown icons of literature, art, and music, Jamila Woods builds a sonic and lyrical monument to the various modes of how these icons tried to push beyond the margins a country had assigned to them. On “Sun Ra,” Woods sings “I just gotta get away from this earth, man / this marble was doomed from the start” and that type of dreaming and vision honors not only the legacy of Sun Ra, but the idea that there is a better future, and in it, there will still be black people.

    Jamila Woods has a voice and lyrical sensibility that transcends generations, and so it makes sense to have this lush and layered album that bounces seamlessly from one sonic aesthetic to another. This was the case on 2016’s HEAVN, which found Woods hopeful and exploratory, looking along the edges resilience and exhaustion for some measures of joy. Legacy! Legacy! is the logical conclusion to that looking. From the airy boom-bap of “Giovanni” to the psychedelic flourishes of “Sonia,” the instrument which ties the musical threads together is the ability of Woods to find her pockets in the waves of instrumentation, stretching syllables and vowels over the harmony of noise until each puzzle piece has a home. The whimsical and malleable nature of sonic delights also grants a path for collaborators to flourish: the sparkling flows of Nitty Scott on “Sonia” and Saba on “Basquiat,” or the bloom of Nico Segal’s horns on “Baldwin.”

    Soul music did not just appear in America, and soul does not just mean music. Rather, soul is what gold can be dug from the depths of ruin, and refashioned by those who have true vision. True soul lives in the pages of a worn novel that no one talks about anymore, or a painting that sits in a gallery for a while but then in an attic forever. Soul is all the things a country tries to force itself into forgetting. Soul is all of those things come back to claim what is theirs. Jamila Woods is a singular soul singer who, in voice, holds the rhetorical demand. The knowing that there is no compromise for someone with vision this endless. That the revolution must take many forms, and it sometimes starts with songs like these. Songs that feel like the sun on your face and the wind pushing flowers against your back while you kick your head to the heavens and laugh at how foolish the world seems.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Jamila Woods returns with her soul-filled lyrics and incredible, strong vocals. The song titles are named after inspiration black people in creative industries and in her lyrics incorporates their experiences and how they came to be. The album is truly beautiful and holds the same strength and passion as her debut, Heavn.

    TRACK LISTING

    BETTY
    ZORA
    GIOVANNI
    SONIA (ft Nitty Scott)
    FRIDA
    EARTHA
    MILES
    MUDDY
    BASQUIAT (ft Saba)
    SUN RA (ft TheMIND &
    Jasminfire)
    OCTAVIA
    BALDWIN (ft Nico Segal)
    BETTY (for Boogie)

    Jamila Woods’s cultural lineage - from her love of Lucille Clifton’s poetry to letters from her grandmother and the late 80s post-punk of The Cure - helped structure the progressive, delicate and minimalist soul of ‘HEAVN’, her debut solo album.

    “It’s like a collage process,” she says. “It’s very enjoyable to me to take something I love and mold it into something new.” A frequent guest vocalist in the hip hop, jazz and soul world, Jamila has emerged as a once-in-a-generation voice on her soul-stirring debut.

    Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Woods grew up in a family of music lovers. She is an artist of substance creating music crafted with a sturdy foundation of her passions and influences.

    You’ll find the bits and pieces of her past and present that make Jamila: family, the city of Chicago, self care, and the black women she calls friends. True and pure in its construction and execution, her music is the best representation of Jamila herself: strong in her roots, confident in her ideas and attuned to the people, places and things shaping her world.

    ‘HEAVN’ features guest performances from Chance The Rapper, Nico Segal, Noname, Saba and Lornie Chia.

    TRACK LISTING

    Bubbles
    VRY BLK (ft Noname)
    Popsicle (Interlude)
    Lonely Lonely (ft Lornie Chia)
    HEAVN
    Eve (Interlude)
    In My Name
    Assata’s Daughters (Interlude)
    BLK Girl Soldier
    LSD (ft Chance The Rapper)
    Still (Interlude)
    Emerald Street (ft Saba)
    Lately
    Always Loving (Interlude)
    Breadcrumbs (ft Nico Segal)
    Stellar
    Good Morning (Interlude)
    Holy
    Way Up
    Holy (Reprise)


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