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. The upcoming album reveals a new side of Jamila never fully shared with her previous work, making this her most personal album yet. Coming out of her Legacy! Legacy! touring schedule and into 2020’s Covid-19 quarantine, Jamila wanted to challenge herself to write as many songs as possible, and spent several months in a state of deep creativity and self-reflection. But despite giving herself this freedom to write without worry, she still yearned for a story to tie her disparate songs together, a clear message to hold in the distance as a guiding light. Early songs “Bugs” and “Thermostat” revealed a simmering common thread: love, relationships, and the hard lessons learned in their wake. Journaling, therapy, and frequent consultations with a trusted astrologer all began to reflect Jamila’s own patterns in love and intimacy back to her. “I was able to understand these little things about myself and say ‘Okay, I want to write about every one of these feelings that I always return to, or patterns that I notice, and give language to them.’” After being connected with LA-based producer McClenney, the album’s story began to take shape, and the two worked together building each song from scratch across 2021 and 2022, first virtually, and then in-person at McClenney’s Haven Studios in LA. The albums sequence was then carefully and 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. But it’s not just Jamila’s turn inward that makes Water Made Us a forceful and captivating reemergence. This album invites us to relinquish any preconceived notions we may have built about what kind of artist Jamila is, with a widespread range of infectious, resplendent production styles. The albums sprawling 17 tracks span everything from autotuned R&B on “Send A Dove”, to gentle acoustic folk rock on the heart wrenching “Wolfsheep”, and bubbly dreampop on dance anthem “Boomerang”. Across Water Made Us, Jamila admits unflinchingly to her mistakes and uncertainties. Twinkling percussive track “Tiny Garden” chronicles Jamila’s effort to prove her commitment to someone, despite the ways she struggles to make it clear. “I’m falling hard for you but I know I don’t show it” she sings over bouncy percussion. Spoken word interlude “I Miss All My Exes” is a solemn and aching ode to the most perfect moments spent with a lifetime of lovers. Each tender shared memory, inside joke, and bestowal of care is kept carefully bound and sealed in Jamila’s heart, even after the relationship has faded into the past. By album finisher “Headfirst”, Jamila seems to accept her own imperfections with gentle grace over a steady groove of shimmering guitar and thumping bass. With every new turn, the door to Jamila’s heart is blown open, revealing her both at her strongest and most vulnerable. But she never navigates love’s depths alone. In what now feels like a familiar staple to her work, Water Made Us is adorned with personal voice memos from those closest to Jamila during her time of deep reflection – Fatimah Asghar, Indya Moore, Krista Franklin, Jasminfire, and the particularly charming Great Uncle Quentin all make appearances. The family affair is rounded out with features from friends and fellow Chicago natives Saba and Peter CottonTale, and the NY-based singer and producer duendita. Every visiting voice serves as an anchor, reminding both Jamila and her audience that the place and people we come from can be a steady source of strength and guidance through our darkest moments of uncertainty. The album’s title is taken from a line in “Good News” where Jamila sings with comforting reassurance, “The good news is water always runs back where it came from/The good news is water made us.” The line is a reference to a Toni Morrison quote from a talk given at the New York Public Library in 1996. “You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places,” Morrison says. “To make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. "Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. 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. “That idea that we’re all born, just babies, just happy,” Jamila says. “That’s always in us, that perfect contentment with just being. And so no matter what bad days we have, we’re on a set course back to that. We can just surrender and get out of the way of that.” Water Made Us reminds us that at its best love is a warm, still ocean. Deep, mystifying, 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.