Jamila Woods

On her expansive new album Water Made Us, Chicago musician and poet Jamila Woods shines anew as she asks the question, what does it mean to fully surrender into love? Across Water Made Us, Jamila embraces new genres as she wades through the exhilarating tumult of love's wreckage and refuge.

While 2017’s HEAVN saw Jamila celebrating her community within a lineage of Black feminist movement organizing, and 2019’s Legacy! Legacy! reframed her life’s experiences through the storied personas of iconic Black and brown artists, Water Made Us is self-revelatory in an entirely new way, making this her most personal album yet. It is a sprawling and intimate portrait of self-reflection, cleverly designed to echo the different stages of a relationship: the early days of easy compromising and flirtatiousness; the careful negotiation through moments of conflict; the grieving of something lost.

The album’s title is a subtle reference to the famous Toni Morrison quote “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.” It’s this sentiment that acts as a pillar for the album’s arc. Water Made Us reminds us that at its best love is a warm, still ocean. And at its worst love can be a riptide that takes us so far away from ourselves we can hardly find our way back, hardly even remember how to swim. Yet Jamila surrenders to this surf because maybe even the most painful endings can in fact be an invitation that calls her back home, back to shore, back to herself.

Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Woods grew up in a family of music lovers. It took a surprise poetry class with a high school arts program for Jamila to finally find her metaphorical and literal voice. “Through poetry, I realized you are the expert of your own experience,” she says. Her poetry studies continued in college and in her professional career with Young Chicago Authors.

Music–like poetry– is personal. “It became a way to stop hiding, to actually be the most honest with myself through writing,” she says. “It helps me check in with myself.” And that honesty translated to HEAVN, an album she describes as a collection of, “nontraditional love songs pushing the idea of what makes a love song.” You’ll find the bits and pieces of her past and present that make Jamila: family, the city of Chicago, self-care, and the black women she calls friends.

Jamila is an artist of substance creating music crafted with a sturdy foundation of her passions and influences. True and pure in its construction and execution, her music is the best representation of Jamila herself: strong in her roots, confident in her ideas, and attuned to the people, places and things shaping her world.

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