Let’s just get that out of the way.
Now, some proper comments. First, if you’re going to name songs after Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Zora Neale Hurston, and the rest of Chicago’s African American artistic dynasty, you better make sure the songs can live up their namesakes. To do that, Jamilia Woods actually researched each of her 12 subjects, and wrote each song as if from that person’s point of view. This might be the first R&B album that comes with a bibliography (literally–it’s in the liner notes)! I don’t usually like sending business to Pitchfork because their pretensions irritate the shit out of me, but this here interview goes track-by-track through this stellar album, and it’s a great read.
So much modern rap/soul is all about self: Bombast, self-disclosure, self-aggrandizing, and self-congratulatory. Not this album. Sure, Ms. Woods is in every track because her incredible vocal quality is the common theme for every song, and her perspectives of what these artists did is what shapes each song, but this is really about a diaspora. It’s about losing self in art. It’s about real, meaningful appreciation–not just a shout out or an “R.I.P.” during a fade out.
There are guest appearances by other new jack soul singers like Saba and Boogie.
There can be little doubt that this will be one of the best albums of the year.