Chicago singer, poet, and teacher Jamila Woods has released “Giovanni,” her first single since her acclaimed 2016 debut album HEAVN. The track is a cover of sorts of Nikki Giovani’s 1943 poem “Ego Tripping (there must be a reason why),” as Woods tells writer and friend Fatimah Asghar in an interview at the Poetry Foundation. (Woods sang the delightful theme song for Asghar’s HBO-optioned web series Brown Girls.) In the style of the source material, Woods flatters herself with a confrontational wit, served in sly turns of phrase: “Permission denied to rearrange me/I am the kingdom, I am not your queen.” She flips Giovanni’s titular parenthetical into the hook.
An accompanying short film, which Woods co-directed with Vincent Martell, combines her singing with documentary-style interviews featuring her family members and friends, opening with her grandmother and closing with her mother—Joycetta and Philippa Woods, whose names are written on Jamila’s right and left cheeks. Since HEAVN, Woods has appeared on “We Good” by Nico Segal‘s jazz group The JuJu Exchange, and Joseph Chilliams‘ “Shake My Ass.” She also composed with her sister Ayanna Woods the music for Eve Ewing and Nate Marshall’s play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Woods’ sophomore album is expected soon via Jagjaguwar and Closed Sessions.
Watch and listen to “Giovanni” below.