Chicago born poet and singer-songwriter Jamila Woods dedicated her second album to twelve of her heroes. Each of the tracks is named for one of Woods’ role models, and are intended as self-portraits of these ground-breaking creative forces. Legacy! Legacy! features musical portraits of:
– funk musician Betty Davis
– author Zora Neale Hurston
– poet Nicky Giovanni
– poet Sonia Sanchez
– artist Frida Kahlo
– singer Eartha Kitt
– jazz trumpeter Miles Davis
– blues musician Muddy Waters
– artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
– jazz musician Sun Ra
– author Octavia Butler
– author James Baldwin
Woods has covered Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name Of’ live, but it’s not hard to connect her music to previous generations of soul and R&B. She grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, and her smooth grooves and political conscience connects her to the previous generation of neo-soul stars, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill.
The music’s great – classy and organic R&B – but it’s the theme that makes Legacy! Legacy! stand apart. Each luminary has a song titled after them. Given that she also has a successful career as a poet, Woods has a lot of great lines on Legacy! Legacy!
I like you better when you see me lessFrida, Jamila Woods
I like me better when I’m not so stressed
Can we do it like Frida? We could build a bridge then
I could come see ya, just not where I live
‘Frida’ refers to the bridge that married couple Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera constructed between their separate homes. Woods grew up in the only black family in an Irish neighbourhood in Chicago, and she related to Zora Neale Hurston’s line “I felt most colored when I was thrown against a sharp white background.” In standout track ‘Zora’, Woods sings “Must be disconcerting how I discombob’ your mold/I’ve always been the only, every classroom, every home.”
Legacy! Legacy! is an outstanding sophomore record from Woods, a masterpiece that works even without its thematic heft.