Ska & Opinions on Jamila Woods


In the late 1950s, Jamaican musicians blended home-grown rhythms with R&B to create ska. The genre's influence quickly spread across the globe, paving the way for the reggae phenomenon. Jim and Greg explore the history of ska from its island origins to its British revival to its most recent punk incarnation. Plus, a review of the debut album from poet and soul singer Jamila Woods.

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Ska is an often misunderstood music genre. Isn't it the same as reggae? Didn't it die out in the '90s? Jim and Greg dig into ska in a Sound Opinions genre dissection with pioneering ska musician Charley Organaire and Jump Up records founder and ska scholar Chuck Wren. Charley was present at the creation in 1950s Jamaica for what is now known as the 1st Wave of Ska. He tells us where the name came from and how the sound originated by mixing folk music known as mento with American R&B, giving rise to artists like The Skatalites, Prince Buster and Laurel Aiken. Then Chuck leads us through the 2nd Wave, or Two-Tone, movement in the late '70s England with bands like The Specials, Madness and The English Beat. And finally the 3rd Wave breaks in the United States in the 1990s with an aggressive strain of punk-infused ska that looked to be reaching the mainstream, only to fade away as quickly as it grew. But Chuck tells us that ska can still be found all over the world.

HEAVN Jamila Woods

Jamila Woods

In the last few years, Chicago poet and soul artist Jamila Woods has made memorable cameos on tracks by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, and more. Now, she's breaking out with her debut album HEAVN. Jim loves how Jamila effortlessly blends genres like soul, R&B, and hip hop. He also finds her lyrics to be powerful and effective in painting a picture of her life as a black woman. Jim thinks Woods is elevating the neo soul genre to the next level and gives HEAVN a Buy It. Greg wholeheartedly agrees, and thinks this album is another great release coming from the Chicago hip hop and R&B scene. He greatly respects Jamila's ability to poetically articulate her struggles against society's perceptions of black beauty and womanhood. Overall, Greg thinks this is one of the best albums of the year so far, and gives it an enthusiastic Buy It.


For Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week, he chooses She’s Like Heroin To Me by The Gun Club. Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the other founders of this band played music that did not fit into any genre labels but which might be described as "psychobilly  cowpunk  post-punk  tribal-psychobilly-blues." Jim reminisces about the very innovative period of indie rock and punk in the '80s when The Gun Club came about, and points out how important this particular track is in understanding '80s music and expressing popular punk themes like obsession, addiction, and sex.

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