Chicago-based singer, songwriter and poet Jamila Woods released her debut album, HEAVN, for free on Soundcloud in July 2016. The album featured appearances from fellow Chicagoans Noname, Saba and Chance The Rapper (with whom she'd previously collaborated on two of his own hits, "Sunday Candy" and "Blessings"). At the time of its release, Woods offered this statement:
"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."
HEAVN was recently re-released by the independent label Jagjaguwar in partnership with the Chicago hip-hop label Closed Sessions. In a recent interview on Weekend Edition Saturday, Woods told NPR's Jenny Gathright:
"My mission as an artist is always to create art that's useful. I want my music to feel like it has a tangible effect on people, like it allows them to check in with themselves, feel affirmed, feel able to continue into their day or into their path with renewed energy and a renewed sense of self, because ... that's what I hope to manifest in myself."
As part of Slingshot, we asked Woods to share five songs that offer a glimpse into her musical heart. From soul and gospel to rock and singer-songwriters, here's Jamila Woods in five songs.
Erykah Badu, "Bag Lady"
"'Bag Lady' by Erykah Badu is very literally a description of me most of the time. I don't have a car so I usually take the train or Uber everwhere, meaning I carry my whole day with me at all times. The plus side is I always have lotion and hand sanitizer and a pen and a bunch of other random things you might need. The downside is I am usually stashing my backpack at the club somewhere to avoid the bag check fee."
Ani DiFranco, "32 Flavors"
"'32 Flavors' by Ani DiFranco is about womanhood, how people are often threatened by women in power or women who know what they want. It's also about being self-assured as a woman, knowing you contain multitudes and not letting anyone reduce you to less. I love that the reason I listen to Ani DiFranco is because my dad loves her. He listens to a lot of powerful women songwriters and I inherited his love for them."
Kid Cudi, "Man On The Moon"
"'Man on the Moon' by Kid Cudi, to me, is like an ars poetica. I used to listen to this song on loop before poetry performances when I used to compete in poetry slams. The idea that I don't fit in because I'm from another planet has always been comforting to me, and I like how he references that in the lyrics. I also like how he talks about being authentic to himself even when people don't understand or call him crazy for it."
Rev. Milton Brunson & the Thompson Community Singers, "It's Gonna Rain"
"'It's Gonna Rain" by Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson Community Singers was my favorite gospel song growing up. The choir director had this amazing arrangement of it and it felt like the air in the room was literally changing like it does before it rains. It reminds me of my grandma and the church where I started singing."
Jimmy Eat World, "The Middle"
"'The Middle' by Jimmy Eat World I like because it was one of my favorite songs when I first heard it in seventh or eighth grade, and it remains relevant to me. The lyrics are comforting and affirming, especially at times when I feel like I'm running out of time to accomplish things I want, or like I should be wiser or further along than I am."