Albums can often feel like historical artifacts, bodies of work that capture the musical and/or cultural zeitgeist of their time. Few records attempt to harness that history and recontextualize it for the present, but that’s just what Jamila Woods has done on her second outing, LEGACY! LEGACY! Tipping her hat to those that have inspired her, each of the thirteen tracks are named after influential musicians, poets, and artists of color: Miles Davis, Eartha Kitt, and Frida Kahlo are among the most recognizable names, while others like Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Octavia Butler are more obscure references to uninformed listeners. Paying homage to these legendary figures, Woods interweaves their works with her personal narrative to create something truly compelling.
Bathed in neo soul textures that recall early-aughts Erykah Badu, LEGACY! LEGACY! generally plays it safe in terms of soundscape, but that’s more often than not how it’s supposed to be — it’s strengths and purpose lie within Woods’ lyrics. Despite that, there are moments of genuine excitement; “MUDDY” (titled after the incomparable Muddy Waters) infuses the soul of the singer’s work with the rock and blues of Waters’ career, and final track “BETTY (for Boogie)” incorporates Chicago house elements to emphasize the celebration of these orators that this record is meant to be. While these are outliers, these variations allow listeners to groove a bit as they forge ahead.
Lyrically, the album covers many topics, from standard fare such as love and relationships (three-piece suite “SONIA” — “FRIDA” — “EARTHA”) to the politics of black rage and the reclamation of empathy for those that oppose you (“BALDWIN”). The most impactful of these moments comes on “BASQUIAT;” inspired by an interview in which the artist denies his anger to those that desire it, Woods’ communicates her own struggles with the emotion in the lines “‘Are you mad?’ Yes, I’m mad/‘What makes you mad?’ I don’t fuckin’ know/You should tell me so, you done done it.” Later in the track, rapper Saba delivers a verse in which he sounds like he is physically restraining himself, a reflection of the policing white people do to how people of color express their feelings. Throughout LEGACY! LEGACY!, Woods’ lyricism takes center stage in beautiful moments like these, proving herself to already be one of the greats whose own legacy will no doubt inspire the generations that follow.
Standout tracks: “EARTHA,” “MUDDY,” “BASQUIAT,” “BETTY (for Boogie)”