Music has the power to reveal human experiences that are different from our own. Jamila Woods’ experiences growing up as a black woman in Chicago are very different than my experiences growing up as a white male living near Toronto. Yet her powerful music gives me opportunity to learn, reflect, and ask questions about where our lives intersect.
Even though HEAVN is her debut album, Woods is already well known as a poet and activist, as well as a featured vocalist on songs by other artists such as Chance the Rapper (“Sunday Candy”) and Macklemore (“White Privilege II”). A variety of producers from Chicago, including Nico Segal (formerly known as Donnie Trumpet), contributed to this project, offering a musical backdrop that is solid yet not terribly memorable.
However, the words of Jamila Woods are memorable. Throughout the 13 tracks on this album, she sings of her experiences of racial injustice growing up in Chicago. She expresses hurt, sadness, anger, and hope with vulnerability, while asking tough questions that encourage the listener to pause and reflect on their place in the world.
Even though Woods uses overtly spiritual language throughout the album, she focuses mainly on the problems on this earth, calling on people to make the world a more just place right now. She also occasionally uses language that may be uncomfortable for some listeners. But this album is important for Christians to engage, as it expresses the harm of racial injustice and offers starting points for difficult conversations around how race is perceived in America and Canada today.
The album is not currently available in a physical format; you can listen to the songs at no charge on YouTube. (Closed Sessions)