While it’s Debut Album Appreciation Month — a thing I made up that could be a reason (not that you need one) to go back and listen to albums such as Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Country Grammar, or, say,
Hot Fuss, to name three random debut albums from the early 2000s — allow me to direct your attention to a new one and encourage you to download HEAVN, the timely and deeply personal debut album from Chicago artist Jamila Woods.
HEAVN has all the freshness you’d want out of a debut in terms of sound, but Woods’ lyrics are the real juice of the album; her message is what drives the connection to the listener and is worth sharing widely. Plus there are a few you-got-me, I-got-you features from fellow Chicagoians NoName, Chance the Rapper (you probably first heard Jamila Woods on “Sunday Candy“), Saba, and Donnie Trumpet, which is a wonderful thing as the music and art coming out of Chicago seems to, well, keep coming; an uplifting bright spot amongst such deadly times there.
“Bubbles” is a fine intro that lets us know this is a true black girl story, but the playground playful music against the really real chorus of “VRY BLK” grabs not just your ear but the rest of your attention as well. That is, the music itself is one thing, but the lyrics, the words Woods speaks need to be spoken and heard more often. The same can be said of “Blk Girl Soldier”, which is similarly original in its political expression and historical reverence, but uses a powerful electric guitar in place of whimsical drums and synths to great effect.
Those two tracks are enough to make the whole of HEAVN worth a spin, but Woods is able to slow things all the way down to my tempo on tracks like “Lonely Lonely” and “Emerald St.”, and the title track “HEAVN” is classic R&B groovy, but with lyrics that speak to contemporary life goals. The last bits of the album are just as engaging as the first, and the phone call quality outro stories and poems string the listener along a tightly knit, 13 track statement of feeling and being; reflecting what it’s like to be a black woman, right now, and we don’t get a sense of what that’s like often enough. You can stream HEAVN via Soundcloud below.