It was hard to find Jamila Woods's music two years ago. An early affiliate of the Savemoney collective with a dextrous voice and background in poetry, she appeared alongside Chance the Rapper—most prominently on Surf's "Sunday Candy" and the SNL performance of the song around Christmas 2015. Beyond that, there were a couple of demo tracks and live cuts, backed up by Donnie Trumpet and Saba. Unlike many of her peers in Chicago—Noname, Kewku Collins, Towkio—Woods seemed to be intentionally under-the-radar.
Two years on, and Woods is a rising star with a brilliant LP behind her. Heavn, released last July, was the full realization of Woods's vocal and lyrical clarity, a defiant record constructed on neo-soul chords. "Heavn opens the floodgates for self-exploration and discovery," Tara Mahadevan wrote in her profile of Woods for Noisey last year. "For what it means to be black, to be a black woman, to be a poet, to be an educator, and now, to be a solo artist."In our Noisey Next video, we caught up with Woods in Chicago to talk about her rise to fame, something she always saw as inevitable. "Since I was young, I would sing songs into a hairbrush, into the mirror," she says. "I would imagine I was in my own music video and stuff. It was kind of always this thing that I knew was my thing that I needed to do." Her focus now, as the Associate Artistic Director at the renowned Young Chicago Authors, is on inspiring kids from her neighborhood with the same dreams.Watch the video at the top of the page.Follow Noisey on Twitter.