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Jamila Woods: 2017

Jamila Woods with Carmel Holt at WFUV

Jamila Woods with Carmel Holt at WFUV (photo by Joanna LaPorte)



Although best known for the blues, Chicago has a deep and vibrant musical history that involves all genres. The city has been a force in jazz, gospel, soul, and in recent years, hip-hop and rap — like Kanye West and rising star Chance The Rapper. Poet, soul singer, and teaching artist Jamila Woods first appeared on collaborations with Chance, as well as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Now she is an NPR Slingshot artist to watch.

On her uplifting debut, HEAVN, Jamila brings a lot of these Chicago influences together, combined with her talent for poetry and her deep pride for black history. She speaks out on social injustice — with a dose of feminism and a lot of hope.

Woods brought a couple of her thoughtful songs and her story to share with us on her first visit to Studio A for FUV Live. You can hear that session below, and also watch a bonus video of Jamila performing her poem, "Blk Girl Art."

Jamila told me that "Blk Girl Art" was inspired by Amiri Baraka's poem "Black Art," and expresses her own goals for what she creates: "I think it's important for work to be beautiful, but also for it to serve a purpose, so comparing it to those things like warm shea butter on elbows or water — things that we need — that's how I think about my art, whether it's poetry or songwriting." (Note that the poem has not been edited for language).

[recorded: 11/15/17]