Tempering sharp and powerful lyrics with a sweetly melodic voice, Jamila Woods is an activist, award-winning poet, and singer/songwriter whose inspirations include Gwendolyn Brooks and Toni Morrison, as well as Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar.
A vital part of the creative artist community in her native Chicago, she raised her profile through collaborations with the likes of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Chance the Rapper. As a solo artist, she specializes in an accessible yet non-commercial form of R&B that is rooted in soul and wholly modern, heard on the subsequent solo albums HEAVN (2016) and LEGACY! LEGACY! (2019).
Born and raised in Chicago, Woods started performing in church. After she graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies and Theatre Arts & Performance Studies, she returned home and formed the self-termed "adventure soul" duo Milo & Otis, aka M&O. The duo released The Joy (2012) and Almost Us (2014), the former of which featured an appearance from Chance the Rapper. Woods and Chance reconnected on "Sunday Candy," a highlight from Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment's Surf (2015). Early the following year, she signed to Chicago's Closed Sessions label as a solo artist and released her first single, the charged and proud "Blk Girl Soldier." Around the same time, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis issued "White Privilege II," for which Woods delivered the song's closing lines. Shortly after that, she could be heard on "Blessings," the finale of Chance's Grammy-winning Coloring Book.
HEAVN, Woods' highly anticipated debut album, arrived digitally on Closed Sessions in July 2016. Given its high levels of conviction and wisdom without preachiness, it sounded the like work of a veteran artist operating at her peak. The following year, the audience for HEAVN grew when an expanded edition was released on multiple formats by the Jagjaguwar label. Woods continued to glean inspiration from her work as associate artistic director of the nonprofit Young Chicago Authors, and in May 2019 released LEGACY! LEGACY!, her second solo album, through Jagjaguwar. Each one of its songs was influenced and titled after a writer or artist of color, from Nikki Giovanni to Muddy Waters. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi