Later this week, the great Chicago R&B singer Jamila Woods will release her new album Legacy! Legacy! Every song on the album is named after a black cultural hero, and we’ve already heard a few of those songs: “Giovanni,” “Zora,” “Eartha.” Today, Woods has shared another one of those songs, presumably the last before the album arrives.
The new song is called “Baldwin,” and it’s not named after Alec. On the track, Woods digs into the weight of institutional racism with the same grace and pointedness that James Baldwin once used. Sample lyrics: “Somebody’s daddy always laid out in the street, and for what?,” “It’s a casual violence in your speech and your silence.”
It’s a warm, languid ’70s-style soul song with a few gospel overtones, and it features contributions from Nico Segal, the Chance The Rapper collaborator and bandleader who used to use the name Donny Trumpet. (Segal also just teamed up with Nate Fox for the album Intellexual.) Together, Woods and Segal explore some rich textures: Murmuring ’80s synth-drums, breezy jazz horns, present-day trap hi-hats. Woods’ voice has plenty of echoes across the ages, too: Billie Holiday, Syreeta Wright, Erykah Badu. Check it out below.
On the song, Woods says:
“Baldwin” is a song inspired by the work of James Baldwin, particularly the “Letter To My Nephew” in his book The Fire Next Time. He had an incredible ability to speak about whiteness in a way that was hard-hitting and nuanced, and delivered some of the most elegant reads to white America, providing me a lens to think about how I see whiteness at work in my world today.
Legacy! Legacy! is out 5/10 via Jagjaguwar. Pre-order it here.