Poet. Feminist. R&B Visionary. Activist. Mentor.
These are the immediate descriptors that come to mind when describing the art & power of Jamila Woods.
Jamila Woods’ cultural lineage–from her love of Lucille Clifton’s poetry to cherished letters from her grandmother to the infectious late 80s post-punk of The Cure–structure the progressive, delicate and minimalist soul of HEAVN, her debut solo album released in the summer of 2016 on Closed Sessions. “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. It took a surprise poetry class with a high school arts program for Jamila to finally find her metaphorical and literal voice. “Through poetry, I realized you are the expert of your own experience,” she says. Her poetry studies continued in college and in her professional career with Young Chicago Authors.
Music–like poetry– is personal. “It became a way to stop hiding, to actually be the most honest with myself through writing,” she says. “It helps me check in with myself.” And that honesty translated to HEAVN, an album she describes as a collection of, “nontraditional love songs pushing the idea of what makes a love song.” 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.
Jamila is an artist of substance creating music crafted with a sturdy foundation of her passions and influences. 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.