ALBUM REVIEW: Jamila Woods Assures Her Place in History on ‘LEGACY! LEGACY!’

The Chicago poet’s second album is the most profound work of art you’ll hear this year.

Following her critically acclaimed debut, HEAVN, as well as her memorable performances on Chance The Rapper’s “Sunday Candy” and “Blessings,”  LEGACY! LEGACY! is the powerful second album from Chicago singer, songwriter and poet Jamila Woods.

A concept album of sorts, each song on LEGACY! is inspired by a legendary black artist, an ambitious and weighty idea she executes masterfully. On “SONIA,” named after poet Sonia Sanchez, Woods sings “My great granny was born a slave / She found liberation before the grave / Who you tellin’ to behave?”

Woods stakes a strong claim to an expansive, black, Chicagoan identity on this project and she does it in a way that is defiant, but also celebratory. It’s an identity rooted in the immense struggles of the past, but also takes joy in her present and looks hopefully to the future. The tone of her voice itself has an optimistic quality to it, even when she sings “Shut up motherfucker / I don’t take requests” on “MILES,” a song paying respect to Miles Davis’s refusal to ever shuck and jive for white audiences.

On “GIOVANNI,” which pays homage to Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Ego Tripping,” she sings “My ancestors watch me/ fairytale walking.” Her ancestry gives her an uncompromising confidence that shines through on every track. Fiery features from MC’s Nitty Scott and fellow Chicagoan Saba add perfectly to this theme.

The production, which comes from genre bouncing Chicago producers like oddCouple, Slot-A and Peter CottonTale, is dense and interesting but still allows Woods the spotlight. Nico “Donnie Trumpet” Segal’s feature on “BALDWIN” is a musical highlight, as is the album’s closing track which reprises the opening song “BETTY” as a Chicago house remix, which gives the album a satisfying, circular structure that is easy to get lost in.

By showing us her most authentic self, Jamila Woods sets herself firmly in her own narrative here, and in line with the legends she pays homage to. LEGACY! LEGACY! is nothing short of profound.

Score: ✊✊✊✊✊/5