Seeing Jamila Woods At Rough Trade Was A Blessed Experience [Recap]
I had never been to Williamburg’s Rough Trade before, but thanks to the plug, I was in there and ready to see Jamila Woods live and in living color. Bringing the Windy City vibe (and even a bit of the chill factor) to the venue, the intimate setting was packed to the brim with people, good vibes and featured plenty of communal moments. I got there just as Kamau was preaching to the crowd how racism actually affected everyone no matter their color—a truth bomb if there ever has been dropped in 2016. Afterwards, he instructed the crowd to embrace a stranger and share positive reaffirming words (“I love you,” “I love myself,” “I love you no matter what you look like.”)
It was a recharging moment for me after a long day at work, so telling myself and others words of encouragement was a golden occurrence for me.
As the stage changed over for Jamila’s arrival, host Oprah Gucci (also known as Jasmine Barber), who is also from Chicago, came out to play a few games with us and crack a few funny bones. Exceptionally spot on and talented at both, we played “Simon Says,” while she simultaneously connected with the crowd. Finally, the curtains parted, the band began their riff and Jamila stepped out to greet her adorning public. With the room going crazy, she hit right into “VRY BLK,” and I saw everyone in that room singing along with Jamila just as I was. I was intrigued by how her band was crisp and able to play within the notes while keeping on key with the song. Very funky, indeed. Seeing how the band played off of one another made it very apparent that these players are enjoying themselves on stage while giving their best to those watching them play.
She followed “VRY BLK” with “Emerald St.” and “LSD“. No, Chance The Rapper didn’t’ jump out as she performed the latter, but she did have a little fun at the crowd’s expense as she went true #TBT with Destiny’s Child‘s “Say My Name”. I had to give her extra points for transitioning from that classic smoothly into her own, “In My Name,” which serves as a chin-check for anyone looking to test Jamila’s mettle. After putting a bow on that, she took it back by spitting a rap in the vein of Drake‘s “Worst Behavior” called “Thirst Behavior,” which was dedicated to those parched scrubs who holler come-ons out of their homie’s car. A sly track that has racked up an impressive 30,000 views on YouTube, “Thirst Behavior” aims to educate the men who haven’t caught on that there is a way to genuinely talk to a woman.
“You’re so vein, you probably think this song is not about you,” she crooned before letting the subject of her song know, “Yes, it is about you.”
Jamila then had a quick costume change and returned to the stage in a powerfully emotive outfit (“Ain’t I A Woman” t-shirt) and performed “Lonely Lonely” live. Honestly, I got my entire life and soul to see that in living color. You can scratch that off my bucket list. Hearing Jamila’s buttery smooth vocals sounding as lithe as a feather floating over Fred Astaire’s pinky toe was magic to witness. Add to the mix the class J Dilla riff she threw in for good measure was an extra holy-moly moment, which is always welcomed here at Okayplayer. Heart eyes were a-flutter by those in the crowd who also caught the reference. Jamila followed “Lonely Lonely” up with “Stellar,” a groove so juicy you could almost see saccharine coming out of the speakers. Her and the crew had us all swaying from right to left and bouncing in the middle as each song hit us in wave and wave.
A question about counting how many days one has been alive segue into “Breadcrumbs,” which the couple seated in front of me move a bit closer and get snuzzled in by love and the band’s melodious swing. “Way Up” followed next, built up by a catchy “little drummer boy” riff by the percussionist. It became apparent that Jamila’s music connects with her audience in a deep and relatable level. Hearing her emotively say, “Just ’cause I’m born here, don’t mean I’m from here” was something I could identify with—especially now in Drumpf’s America. As we reached the tail-end of the show, Jamila closed out with “Holy,” “Sunday Candy” and “Blk Girl Soldier,” the latter of which you can watch below.
My time in Jamila Woods’ presence proved that she’s a beautiful spirit who is worthy of your ears and eyes whenever she takes the stage. So, don’t let Shea Butter Twitter beat you to the ticket booth when she comes to your town. Be sure to stream HEAVN and a few tickets here and here.