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R&B - Released May 3, 2017 | Jagjaguwar


Soul - Released August 15, 2017 | Jagjaguwar

Before it was given a proper showcase on this debut solo album, the voice of Jamila Woods was heard fronting the "adventure soul" of Milo & Otis and supporting tracks by fellow Chicago artists including Chance the Rapper, Saba, Donnie Trumpet, and Kweku Collins. In early 2016, Woods helped close out Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "White Privilege II," courageous enough to assert "Your silence is a luxury" at the pair's overwhelmingly white fan base. Around the time that song came out, Woods released her own "Blk Grl Soldier." A muscular Jus Cuz production served as the backdrop for a characteristically soft and sweetly melodic vocal, rich in pride and fortitude, with substance packed into each line: "Look at what they did to my sisters -- last century, last week/They make her hate her own skin, treat her like a sin/They love how it repeats." Months later, the perseverance anthem appeared smack in the middle of the sanguine HEAVN. On the title song, Woods floats over a rolling groove, quoting the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" and then twisting it a bit, beaming "I don't wanna run away with you/I wanna live our life right here." She later sings "I don't belong here" and "I'm an alien from inner space" in "Way Up," and dreams of leaving this planet in "Stellar," but Woods otherwise isn't one to promote escapism, not when she's sustained by friends, family, and fellow musicians -- including most of the above-mentioned -- who inspired and/or helped create this album. Some moments regard an intimate relationship and independence, occasionally both at once, like when she affirms "Nobody completes me" in "Holy." A larger portion concerns communal matters like survival, resistance, sisterhood, and how to thrive in conditions designed to perpetuate oppression. The resolutely nurturing and buoyant qualities make it easy to miss out on some of the wisdom and stirring lines such as "Grandma loved granddaddy even after he forgot our names," related over Nico Segal's trumpet and the kaleidoscopic swirl of Stereolab's "The Flower Called Nowhere." Originally a digital-only release from Closed Sessions, HEAVN was expanded and reissued a year later by Jagjaguwar, made available on physical formats with a track list that added six interludes and a thick reprise of "Holy." The interludes, especially the one in which children recite an Assata Shakur quote -- inserted as a brilliant setup for "Blk Grl Soldier" -- are not extraneous. ~ Andy Kellman

Soul - Released September 21, 2018 | Jagjaguwar

Renowned throughout the art world for his found-object sculptures, which he began crafting in 1979, Lonnie Holley started his musical career in 2012, when Dust-to-Digital released his phenomenal debut album Just Before Music. The Alabama-born artist had been improvising songs using a Casio keyboard in his home for decades, but he'd never considered presenting his music to the general public until manager Matt Arnett began organizing professional recordings in 2006. Quite simply, Holley's music is impossible to categorize. His rich, weathered voice might bring to mind Gil Scott-Heron, and his cosmic energy can be comparable to Laraaji or Sun Ra, but his sound is entirely his own. Instead of writing songs, he chooses a subject and the words and music flow out of him, varying from a slow trickle to an excited, babbling rush. His lyrics reflect on topics such as human consciousness, space, and time, and they span the spectrum of emotions from ecstatic joy to utter rage and horror at the injustice of society. MITH is Holley's third album and his most fully produced recording by far. His multi-tracked vocals project several thoughts floating around his brain at once, and lush layers of horns, keyboards, and jazzy drums elevate the music's atmospheric qualities. Laraaji himself plays piano on a few songs, and other contributors include saxophonist Sam Gendel and the late Richard Swift, who plays drums on one song. Holley sounds more emotionally charged here than on his first two albums, with several songs directly reacting to the fear and paranoia following the 2016 presidential election. On the opening track, he sings "I'm a suspect in America, but I will end up being a dust speck in Mother Universe." On the album's turbulent centerpiece, he cries "I snuck off the slave ship just to sneak on another." And then there's the sobering "I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America," a plea to end the national re-occurring nightmare. Elsewhere, "Copying the Rock" and "There Was Always Water" voice concerns about humanity's neglect of environmental issues. After all of this heaviness, the album concludes with the rousing, gospel-infused "Sometimes I Wanna Dance," a celebration of the pure joy of letting one's body be free. MITH is the most powerful album yet from a truly inspirational artist who deserves to be acknowledged as a national treasure. ~ Paul Simpson

Soul - Released May 10, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Qobuzissime
What is my purpose? What will come of the legacy of those who have influenced me? And what will I leave behind? These are all the big questions that Jamila Woods asks herself going into her second album suitably named Legacy! Legacy!, a Qobuzissime album! Three years after the release of Heavn, the soul sister from Chicago brings together twelve songs all named after the artists that influenced them. Musicians, painters, writers, activists, poets, they’re all there! And the lucky few are: Betty Davis, Zora Neale Hurston, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sun Ra, Octavia Butler and James Baldwin. There is nothing obvious or didactic here as the young African-American who is ever-so attached to her native Chicago never does out-and-out covers but less subtle “in the style ofs” all while retaining her own distinct style. A poet one day (she acts as artistic director for YCA, a center dedicated to young poets) and a musician the other, she is even a teacher on bank holidays! As the worthy heir of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, all her words are wrapped around ultra-slick grooves with a modernized nu-soul twist. When it comes to features, Jamila Woods helps her local economy by inviting along friends that, for the most part, come from the underground scene of the Windy City: the trumpetist Nico Segal, MC Saba, Nitty Scott, theMIND, Jasminfire. Chance the Rapper’s protégé has mixed intelligence and class, commitment, enjoyment and groove into 49 minutes. Perfect. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz