Jamila Woods - Heavn LP

(Jagjaguwar, 2017)

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"Listeners of Chance the Rapper and Macklemore might recognize the name Jamila Woods; the Chicagoan’s name graced the credits of the former’s “Sunday Candy” andColoring Book and the latter’s “White Privilege II”. Those that’ve paid a little closer attention will know too that she puts out her own music. Closer still, they’ll know she’s also a poet and activist. And yet all of this knowledge can’t compartmentalize or contain Woods’ brilliance, a voice (both literal and figurative) whose strength is compounded by her many facets. On her debut full-length, HEAVN, Woods lets each of those facets shine, without letting any of them get lost in the glow.

Woods is not shy about the aims of her music: “HEAVN is about black girlhood, about Chicago, about the people we miss who have gone on to prepare a place for us somewhere else, about the city/world we aspire to live in,” she notes on the album’s SoundCloud debut. For all of these things, she stands tall, offering a voice not only of astute criticism and observation, but also of hope for a better future and black self-love today. And, more impressively, she conveys these charged feelings in equally ambitious music, songs that unite and empower despite their apparent complexity.

The song feels as if Woods is speaking for an entire community, but then Woods adds a tag, as if to remind that the community is of course made up of so many individuals. The track ends with a recording of a phone conversation, an explanation of a specific memory in which a group of black women she met at work all knew the same childhood rhyming game, while the white employees looked on in confusion. “It was literally like the best inside secret that I felt like I had ever had,” she explains. “That’s one of my favorite things about blackness.” To that same end, HEAVN itself feels like a happy secret, one that finds connection and joy despite the fuel of oppression." - Adam Kivel for Consequence of Sound