Jamila Woods

LEGACY! LEGACY!

Jagjaguwar

May 14, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Reclaiming black and brown history through its poets, musicians, intellectuals, and activists, Chicago-based multi-hyphenate Jamila Woodsherself many of these thingsgives props to her inspirational heroes. Song titles bear names such as "Miles" (Davis), "Muddy" (Waters), (James) "Baldwin," and (Jean-Michel) "Basquait." Monikers aren't merely ornamental, Woods paints striking portraits of each legend, bearing in mind the times, tradition, and discipline they rose from, distilling them to their essence.

"Miles" is staccatoed, jazz shapes jut out over an electro filter while a propulsive underscore keeps driving it along. The trumpeter unapologetic in work and personal life famously played with his back to white audiences, terse and through her teeth, Woods is bellicose: "Shut up Motherfucker, I don't take requests." Similarly powerful is "Muddy"They can study my fingers/They can mirror my pose, " reflecting all the imitators he spawned and the way we appropriate from black music in generalhere fittingly accompanied with a fat bass line and crunchy guitar riff.

Yet, it is the contributions of womenso often minimized and uncommon knowledge to music fans not graduates of a HBCUthat Woods shines a light and achieves a more profound significance that resonates deeper. There's poet Sonia Sanchez, who wrote about slavery and the traumas of black women; science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, who helped define Afrofuturism as a literary and cultural aesthetic; and author/anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, associated with the Harlem Renaissance.

"Sonia" is a standout featuring Afro-Latina rapper Nitty Scott. While Woods' vocals are airy with a girlie sweetness that echoes Minnie Riperton to begin with, the song then gains potency and grit channeling Eryka Badu before Scott's visceral rap takes the gloves off addressing modern day misogyny with successive one-two punch: "It was pressure, pain, and panic attack...pussy don't pop for you...first date questions, what's your ideologies?"

LEGACY! LEGACY! educates and enrages but also moves, heals, and leaves you full-hearted with hips and shoulders swaying to each track's studied and hypnotic groove. And it will have you at hello.

On opener "Betty," Woods oozes mellifluously, her voice like a marshmallow that melts in a hot cup of dark cocoa: "I am not your typical girl...sweet like the candy...but I'm bitter when you try to hold me back." But who is Betty? Malcolm X-widow Betty Shabazz or Betty Hill, civil rights activist and women's rights leader? As it turns out, neither. It is in fact Betty Davis: Soul singer/model/funk pioneer and wife for a year in 1967 of Miles Davis. She is responsible for introducing the jazz icon to fashions and new music from the psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix to the funk of Sly & The Family Stone; which all went into the pot for his groundbreaking opus Bitches Brew. (www.jamila-woods.com)  

Author rating: 8.5/10

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