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Jamila Woods takes a time machine through black history on ‘LEGACY! LEGACY!’

Courtesy of iTunes.

For my last Stoned vs Sober review I couldn’t think of any better recently released album to review than Chicago poet and neo soul singer, Jamila Woods’ sophomore album, “LEGACY! LEGACY!” Her last album, “HEAVN,” was vastly underappreciated by general music fans in my opinion.

Woods’ voice is very sultry and feminine. It’s unique in that it almost feels like there’s a filter over it. She stays in a pretty tight soprano range. It is soulful, but it isn’t very dynamic. However, just because her voice is soft doesn’t mean her lyrics don’t cut deep.


In her lyrics, Woods frequently touches on black ancestry, feminism, identity and self-love. She can be very unabashed with her views, but her unapologetic attitude is admirable. She also integrates several references to Chicago while covering these topics.

Woods is actually a prominent member of Young Chicago Authors, a poetry organization that has been instrumental in the development of artists like Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Noname and Donnie Trumpet (of The Social Experiment).

On “LEGACY! LEGACY!” Woods uses an interesting titular concept. Every song is named after an iconic figure in black history. Not every song necessarily centers around this individual, but Woods uses these people as a way to summarize her own revolutionary spirit.

Sober listening

“BETTY” (named after Betty Davis) opens the record off with some nicely paced jazz chords. The instrumentation is wavy, but it clashes a bit on the hook. It’s not the best start to the record.

Woods sounds confident as ever on “GIOVANNI” (named after Nikki Giovanni), however the overly smooth instrumentation almost contradicts the boldness of the lyrics. This is an issue that will reappear multiple points in the record.

“SONIA” (named after Sonia Sanchez) has a fluttering vocal delivery. The lyrics reprimand those trying to downplay the real experiences and modern impact of slavery. Guest rapper, Nitty Scott has a that verse reminds me quite a bit of an American Little Simz.

“FRIDA” (named after Frida Kahlo) has an intoxicating chorus with these overlapping triple repetitions. Some of the instrumentation feels hollow to a point to where it doesn’t even support Woods all that much. She does more than her part, however.

“MILES” (named after Miles Davis) feels like an ode to his contributions to jazz fusion. The instrumentation includes elements of rock music as well as a prominent electric piano. Lyrically Woods proudly proclaims her newfound sense of freedom.


One smoke session later …

“MUDDY” (named after Muddy Waters) is as lyrically confrontational as ever, but there’s a heavier blues emphasis with a buzzing electric guitar and a slightly bolder overall presentation.

“BASQUIAT” (named after Jean-Michel Basquiat) has a wavering bass and eerie lonesome electric guitars far in the mix. Saba brings a fiery performance although he continues to feel like an amalgamation of his midwestern rap contemporaries. It is by far the longest song on the record at 6:45. Its length is justified however as the song travels through multiple instrumental transitions.

“SUN RA” has a beautiful lonely guitar. Unfortunately, there’s a bit too much reverb put on Woods’ voice making it sound overly faded. ​theMIND contributes to the vibe but it isn’t one of the more memorable features.

“BETTY (for Boogie)” is a reprise of the opener, but it infuses house music production with more defined dance beats. It’s a well-intended tribute to Chicago’s house music scene, but the rhythmic production style scrambles the flow of Woods’ vocals making them feeling like they’re fading in and out.

“LEGACY! LEGACY!” is a much grittier album than “HEAVN.” In one sense, it’s fascinating to see an R&B artist reviving the bold political stances the genre used to take on. However, in the process Woods loses out on a sense of bliss in her music which is another one of her main appeals in my opinion Occasionally the beauty of the singing and instrumentals contradict the serious tone of the lyrics, but the composure of the sound also works to its benefit. The performances themselves are tight even when taken out of the conceptual context. All in all, Woods takes on a bold concept with varying degrees of success. It’s not bad, but it pales in comparison to “HEAVN.”

Overall: 6/10

Best songs: “BASQUIAT,” “MILES,” “MUDDY” and “BALDWIN”

Worst song: “BETTY (for Boogie)”

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