All stars must take their first step, but Woods seems more intent on a sprint.
Jamila Woods has star power. Despite playing the humble Great Scott, with a mere 200-person capacity that sold out weeks in advance, Woods emanated a delightfully welcoming presence – one more suited to reaching out to the back of festivals rather than dingy clubs. All stars must take their first step, but Woods seems more intent on a sprint.
Perhaps more well-known to the general public for her show stealing features (Chance the Rapper and Macklemore can both count her as a collaborator), Woods is finally stepping into the spotlight to shine. “Has anyone heard HEAVN?” inquired Woods and, while the hardcore fans in the crowd cheered, it did feel like the question went over the heads of some. HEAVN, her excellent debut album, has not been a particularly easy album to listen to since it was taken down on SoundCloud. A damn shame, but Woods promised a re-release within the month which was more than enough to get the entire crowd back on board.
theMIND (aka Zarif Wilder), a fellow Chicago native and Chance collaborator, opened with a very brief, yet hugely fun dose of soulful Frank Ocean (who he covered) inspired neo-R&B. With a wide grin on his face, theMIND’s charismatic presence and positive energy quickly won over an already packed Great Scott. “I’m doing a bunch of sad songs because I’m sad sometimes…” he absentmindedly stated before quickly adding, “I’m not sad now! Remember, you’re bigger than anything you’re going through.” His short songs flowed through snippets of warm melodies and jazzy pianos, with a newer song containing the appropriate and hugely enjoyable to sing refrain of “fuck global warming.”
What makes Woods’s music so compelling is her pride – pride in herself, her city and her vision. And you know what? She should be proud. In fact, she felt almost too humble based on the strength of her songwriting and lyrical skills. “Breadcrumbs” glided around the room on top of a brilliant Stereolab sample with bright harpsichord stabs that set an ethereal mood. “Bubbles,” with its skyscraping melody and elegant harmonies, seamlessly transitioned into “Lonely Lonely” and a hair-raising guitar solo. Woods’s band was equally fierce and their tight interplay allowed her to own Great Scott’s minuscule stage.
Before performing “LSD,” Woods made it a point to give a shout out to her home city of Chicago. “This song is about where I’m from. Anyone here from Chicago?” Surprisingly, a few hollers of agreement popped up. “I love where I’m from… everybody should love where they’re from.” After her barnstorming set at Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival the weekend before, it was hard to blame her, but Boston got some love as well. She excitedly proclaimed, “My dad just moved to Boston! I’ve been spending a bunch of time here and I’ve felt so excited and warmly welcomed.” You got the sense that, no matter where she may be, Woods has the same level of enthusiasm and excitement.
She dropped a brief cover of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” which garnered a mass sing along, before leading into the trio of “VRY BLK,” “Giovanni” (a newer song) and “Blk Girl Soldier.” “Can we please make some noise for the black women in the audience?” shouted Woods to huge applause that was only matched during the latter’s powerful refrain of “Rosa was a freedom fighter / And she taught us how to fight / Ella was a freedom fighter / And she taught us how to fight.” Woods’s music both rails against the struggles that society imposes on black women and celebrates their resilience despite it all. “And she don’t give up / Yeah, she don’t give up,” proudly proclaimed Woods. Woods will never give up, and that’s exactly what will push her into the stardom she rightfully deserves.