Jamila Woods is back with her first music release since LEGACY! LEGACY!, one of the best albums of 2019 and the 2010s as a whole. Today’s single is calling “Sula (Paperback)” and was inspired by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.
The tracks on LEGACY! LEGACY! were notably named after iconic artists of color, such as James Baldwin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Eartha Kitt, and Nikki Giovanni. Woods goes one step further on “Sula”: not only did she title it after Morrison’s classic 1973 novel of the same name, but she also uses the song to reflect on the book’s characters.
The Chicago-based R&B singer specifically looks at the relationship between Sula Peace and Nel Wright, and how it taught her about Black feminism, intimacy, friendship, and more. Woods explained in a statement,
“It’s the first Toni Morisson novel I ever read and it inspired the first chapbook of poems I ever wrote. The novel shows the evolution of a friendship between two Black women and how they choose to navigate society’s strict gender roles and rules of respectability. On Sula, Toni Morrison wrote, ‘living totally by the law and surrendering totally to it without questioning anything sometimes makes it impossible to know anything about yourself.’ Returning to the story several years later, it gave me permission to reject confining ideas about my identity designed to shrink my spirit. It reminded me to embrace my tenderness, my sensitivities, my ways of being in my body. This song is a mantra to allow myself space to experience my gender, love, intimacy, and sexuality on my own terms.”
Stream “Sula (Paperback)” below, and then revisit Woods’ interview on Kyle Meredith With… from last September. Pick up a copy of Morrison’s Sula here.
While Woods has been relatively quiet the last few months, she did recently contribute to the new album from Bruce Hornsby.