On her expansive new album Water Made Us, Chicago musician and poet Jamila Woods shines anew as she asks the question, what does it mean to fully surrender into love? Across Water Made Us, Jamila embraces new genres, playful melodies, and hypnotizing wordplay, as she wades through the exhilarating tumult of love’s wreckage and refuge.
While 2017’s HEAVN saw Jamila celebrating her community within a lineage of Black feminist movement organizing, and 2019’s Legacy! Legacy! reframed her life’s experiences through the storied personas of iconic Black and brown artists, Water Made Us is self-revelatory in an entirely new way, making this her most personal album yet. Made together with LA-based producer McClenney, and boasting features from longtime friends and Chicago natives such as Saba and Peter CottonTale, Water Made Us is a sprawling and intimate portrait of self-reflection, cleverly designed to echo the different stages of a relationship: the early days of easy compromising, flirtatiousness, and fun; the careful negotiation through moments of conflict or hurt; the grieving of something lost; and the tender realization at the end of it all that the person who is gone never really leaves, but stays with you as you find yourself ready to try again, refreshed and reassured.
The album’s title — taken from a line in album highlight “Good News” – is a subtle reference to the famous Toni Morrison quote “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.” It’s this sentiment – of memory, place, and returning – that acts as a pillar for the album’s arc. Water Made Us reminds us that at its best love is a warm, still ocean. Deep, shimmering, and endless in its wonder. And at its worst love can be a riptide that takes us so far away from ourselves we can hardly find our way back, hardly even remember how to swim. And yet Jamila surrenders to this surf — every wave and undertow – because maybe even the most painful endings can in fact be an invitation that calls her back home, back to shore, back to herself.