The word “jamila” finds its roots in the ancient Arabic word for beautiful. It’s fitting then that Jamila Woods’ recent album HEAVN conveys a kind of beauty that is as enigmatic as her name. Through eloquent verses and a voice that’s smoother than velvet, the album showcases a beauty that’s delightfully consistent. The singer’s powerful, heartfelt lyrics conjure all too real images of growing up in Chicago, civil rights, and love lost, yearned for, and yet to come. It’s a beauty that is expressed in the sheer volume of emotion packed into her 13-track debut album that features the likes of fellow Chicago stars Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, and Saba.

Each song paints a story bursting with emotions, allowing you to truly feel and see her stories as if they were your own. “Bubbles,” the melodic, uplifting seminal track, sets the stage for the rest of the album—smooth, strong, feminine, intelligent, loving and uniquely black.

“Lonely Lonely” goes on to capture the yearning to feel comfortable in your own skin and love yourself, while “Breadcrumbs” leverages the insanely talented Donnie Trumpet to tell a story close to Woods’ life: her grandfather’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and its effects on her family.

I became absolutely enveloped by these stories—so much so that I felt like I saw the post-it note on the mirror from “Lonely Lonely,” and felt the overwhelming sadness she sang about in “Breadcrumbs.” It’s hard not to fall into it. Woods doesn’t invite you along in the journey, so much as she grabs you by the hand and leads you throughout the tapestry of her psyche—and what a psyche it is.

HEAVN is the first album I’ve heard in awhile that made me reflect, inflect, and just feel. Luckily for us, Jamila Woods’ talents extend beyond music to poetry (read her killer Adam & Eve rendition here), service to her community, and more. You can download her debut album from her SoundCloud for free and experience a truly emotional sonic landscape.

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