If You Like: Erykah Badu, Noname, H.E.R
It’s been said many times the music genre of R&B is dead. While it’s usually falling from the mouths of your drunk uncle/aunt who swear today’s music is trash, there’s some truth to their ramblings. In terms of mainstream, music has seemed to have lost its edge in capturing an audience. The major record labels tend to push the narrative of what’s going to bring revenue and attention. Somewhere along the way, mainstream R&B lost what made 90s acts like Maxwell, Mary J. Blige, and TLC such household names. To conform, the music genre as a whole has taken a hit in the spotlight. But thanks to black women especially, mainstream R&B is getting some tenderness, love, and care. The past few years saw breakouts from H.E.R and Mereba push towards the surface. With Jamila Woods in tow, these rising R&B stars lead the pack in a reclaim for the throne.
Singer-songwriter, rapper and poet Jamila Woods fall in with other Chicagoans with poetic gifts who have managed to turn words into powerful music. Before music, Woods channeled the black urban life into poetry. Jamila Woods’ poetry focused on the African-American identity and how the landscape affects the black community. Over the years, Jamila Woods has written several books focus on the love of her blackness and the city of Chicago. It seems natural for Woods to pursue a career in music Her use of vivid imagery to tackle injustice fits into what makes Chicago artists so special. It’s the same imagery she uses to evoke a feeling in her music.
Like the great Erykah Badu, her low soft-spoken tone seems to engage in battle with the music. Woods’ ability to change the flow at the drop of a pen is unmistakable. In a commanding tone, Jamila Woods doesn’t care nor apologize for her confident image. In 2017, Jamila Woods released her debut album, Heavn. The album featured other Chicago alums like Chance The Rapper, Noname, Nico Segal, and Saba. On the 20 track project, Woods pulls out all the stops. The album gives a very descriptive look into average African-American life in White America while celebrating pure blackness. Jamila’s greatest moment comes in “VRY BLK” with fellow poet Noname. Using the backdrop of the classic children rhyme “Miss Mary Mack,” Jamila Woods seeks to paint a picture of the daily struggle African-Americans face with law enforcement. She talks about fighting for her fellow brother’s life as they bleed out in the streets. It’s one of the most creative moments of the whole project. While her debut is great, it’s Jamila Woods’ 2019 sophomore album, LEGACY! LEGACY! where the talented poet really shines.
More defined and in a creative space, Jamila Woods expands upon her thoughts, fears, and dreams. The second track, “ZORA,” allows Jamila to reach new heights of R&B. Mixing new sounding R&B with hints of alternative hip-hop introduces us formally to the rapper side of Woods. Legacy! Legacy! takes a deeper dive into how Jamila Woods implements parts of her R&B. Songs like, “GIOVANNI,” “BASQUIAT,” and “SONIA” is rapper Jamila Woods at peak form. Transiting to a more in-depth form of poetry with music isn’t something Jamila Woods really had to figure out. She was born for this and will continue to leave her impact on R&B’s rebirth for years to come.