Jamila Wood's fantastic album HEAVN is available on Soundcloud and you can of currently stream it or download for FREE from there and so you should straightaway before reading this which after all is only a pointer, an arrow to send you in the direction of the songs.
I sometimes think Jamila Woods has way too much talent crammed into one person and oh I am having trouble understanding that! Her poetry collections... and doesn't she shape the poetry curriculum for Chicago school kids or something? Her contributions to Donnie Trumpet's Surf LP and the song Sunday Candy in particular just made it, (simply one of my favorite songs ever); Macklemore's White Privilege II and more on Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book. Then that incredible, really no other word for how everything it is video for Blk Girl Soldier that was number one in both the US and UK wasn't it? The lyrics, the looks,... What about the roller bandolier - possibly coming to hipster hair salons soon and 'ain't nobody checkin us' shoulder shimmy, at one moment, Oh and everything else at the next. Amazing!
Here's Jamila's little by way of introduction for the collection and who could put it better, "HEAVN is about black girlhood, about Chicago, about the people we miss who have gone on to prepare a place for us somewhere else, about the city/world we aspire to live in. I hope this album encourages listeners to love themselves and love each other. For black and brown people, caring for ourselves and each other is not a neutral act. It is a necessary and radical part of the struggle to create a more just society. Our healing and survival are essential to the fight."
And that's before the music starts. And when it does, I love the stripped back crystaline production, that's often oddCouple, the languid songs so very cool, emotionally charged and flippidy-dippidity or something like that if that means anything to you? It's instantaneously light. You know, like you're standing in the middle of something that's gently swirling and humming along and then the line sticks you and grabs you. Most directly on Blk Girl Soldier, how black girls "scares the government" oh wow! And when people "They want us in the kitchen, Kill our sons with lynchings. We get loud about it, oh now we're the bitches." And in the moment I can't move on. The protest in this music is so personal so universal so part of the conversation that sometimes the uk seems apart from. All those years ago when Kevin Rowlands ended his big English hit record with a list of great Irish writers that a lot of people might've thought were English from their middle school lit classes. That grew me then. These are different days and HEAVN can grow you now. Blk Girl Soldier namechecks female civil rights leaders who continue to make a gigantic difference and that is so cool and the music so deliriously great. It's just not Billy Bragg. If you see what I mean. Politics worn on sleeves so pretty you've signed up before you even have time to say "Man I hate political songs, man."
There are lovely interludes where childhood and sisterhood are reminisced over. It's languid, it's slides around its embrace, gentle, insouciant and steely and lifts you up. It's uplifting. Donnie Trumpet's on there, Chance the Rapper - a regular cavalcade of chicago stars! It's altogether deee-lightful.
This record is surely an essential part of anyone's soundtrack to this and any other summer. Can't say fairer than that. But really you just have to listen to it a lot I think.