Jamila Woods, Water Made Us Review
A Watershed Moment in Hip-Hop: The Underrated Brilliance of Jamila Woods’ Water Made Us
Jamila Woods is not just a singer-songwriter but a multi-faceted artist deeply rooted in the complex tapestry of human emotions and social experiences. Her latest offering, Water Made Us, is more than just an album—it’s an auditory anthology. Recorded at the iconic Studio A in Las Vegas and Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, the album transcends typical genre classifications, making a compelling case for itself as an avant-garde hip-hop masterpiece.
Let’s immediately confront one of the most significant criticisms: Woods’ vocals. While some have noted her vocal choices as conservative or repetitive, in the hip-hop context, they serve a different function entirely. The use of autotune on her speak-singing provides a tonal richness that aligns perfectly with the rap aesthetic. Woods’ style resonates with the likes of hip-hop artists who have successfully integrated autotune into their vocal delivery, such as T-Pain or Travis Scott. Her approach, therefore, should not be seen as a lack of vocal versatility but as a unique adaptation of the rap vocal toolkit, offering a fresh contribution to the genre.
The album opens with the track “Bugs,” where Woods’ poetic prowess becomes her rap. While conventional rap leans heavily on rhyme schemes and rapid-fire delivery, Woods employs a more deliberate form of lyrical narration. This lyrical method allows her to construct complex narratives with poetic finesse. She joins a lineage of hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, who have similarly used their platforms to tell stories with significant emotional and social weight.
When it comes to the musical backdrop, Water Made Us incorporates what can best be described as ‘elevated’ hip-hop beats—ones enriched with jazzy harmonies and instrumental intricacies. Songs like “Practice” exemplify this with their back-beat rhythmic structures and chordal colors that go beyond that usually found in traditional hip-hop. It’s a new kind of sophistication that recalls the jazz-influenced works of artists like A Tribe Called Quest or J Dilla, who integrated intricate musicianship into their hip-hop sounds.
The guest appearances on the album, such as Saba on “Practice,” further fortify its hip-hop credentials. The switch-up in flow and expression offers a complementary juxtaposition to Woods’ own style, akin to how rap features often serve to diversify and deepen the textural palette of a hip-hop track.
In summary, Water Made Us can and should be recognized as an excellent hip-hop album. It challenges the genre’s boundaries and enriches its musical and lyrical presentation. This is an album of promising terrains, a fully realized atlas, charting new possibilities for what hip-hop can be. Jamila Woods has elevated the art form to a higher plane by adopting elements from various genres and infusing them with hip-hop. With Water Made Us, Woods is revisiting her roots and cultivating new grounds, breaking through the ceiling of expectations and blossoming into a hip-hop auteur for a new generation.
Connect with Jamila Woods: Website |
Water Made Us
October 13, 2023