visions of black icons: jamila woods and ‘zora’

February 6, 2019

If we weren’t excited enough about Chicago poet-singer-songwriter Jamila Woods announcing her new album, LEGACY! LEGACY!, taking a look at its track-listing — where each song bears the name of a culturally significant Black American figure — was even more of a jolt. Brought together, “Octavia,” “Baldwin,” “Eartha” and “Sun Ra,” join the previously released “Giovanni,”and create not simply a cohesive musical vision, but, in the words of poet Hanif Abdurraqib, “a sonic and lyrical monument to the various modes of how these icons tried to push beyond the margins a country had assigned to them.”  

“Zora,” the second single to drop, is of course based on the work of the great author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, whose storytelling mixed with a single-mindedness to explore the people’s history of Black folks, a pursuit which took her from the Harlem Renaissance into the depths of the Jim Crow South. Less making Hurston a character in the song, Woods makes it about this tireless uncompromising pursuit, with lyrics like “I’m all outta fucks to give / Fear ain’t no way to live.”   

Addressing “Zora,” Woods says, “My weaponry is my energy… An antidote for the feeling of being judged on first glance. A salve for when people think they know you better than you know yourself. It’s about refusing to be essentialized and not allowing your identity to be put in a box. You contain multitudes. You are ever-evolving.  A song to get free from stereotypes and assumptions, inspired by the writing of Zora Neale-Hurston.”

Jamila Woods’ new album LEGACY! LEGACY! will drop in May on Jagjaguwar, in partnership with Closed Sessions