Catch up on the latest news from #NPRSlingshot artists Jamila Woods and Big Thief

The artists in NPR Music‘s inaugural Slingshot class — Jamila Woods, Big Thief and Lo Moon — have had a busy 2017. In addition to recording and releasing new music and traveling the world on tour, they’ve been chosen as the featured musicians in the artist-championing collaboration between NPR and several of its member stations, including XPN. Slingshot was announced in September and will continue throughout the coming year as an effort to support and promote the work of some of the most promising emerging artists out there.

Until recently, Jamila Woods was known primarily as a frequent guest collaborator in hip-hop and R&B, appearing with the likes of Chance the Rapper. Woods has been touring behind her debut solo album HEAVN, and made a stop last week at BLK Wednesday in her hometown of Chicago, adding some unexpected covers to her set. Watch Woods’ take on Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana below, where she mashes up “Killing in the Name” with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Continue reading →


#NPRSlingshot artist Jamila Woods teams up with Chicago friends NE-HI to reimagine their hit “The Times I’m Not There”


Jamila Woods | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Chi-town indie outfit NE-HI has had a very successful year after releasing their second full project Offers back in February. To follow up the commercial success from Offers, the group reached out to R&B favorite Jamila Woods to sing on a reimagined version of their track “The Times I’m Not There” off of NE-HI’s 2014 self-titled record. The collaboration also benefits Chance The Rapper’s Chicago-based charity foundation SocialWorks; all revenue from the song will go to SocialWorks, an arts empowerment organization for inner-city Chicago children.

NE-HI took more of a modern route with this re-recording of “The Times I’m Not There.” The beat of the track is also notably slower, with Woods’ soothing vocals providing a perfect compliment, along with gorgeous keyboard accompaniment and the catchy riffs from the sole guitar. The intersection of neo-soul and indie makes for a great sound and Woods definitely adds a whole other layer to the track that was not on the original recording. Continue reading →


Get to know Slingshot, a new artist-championing collaboration backing Big Thief, Jamila Woods and Lo Moon

Teased this spring at the annual NonCOMM-vention, the new program Slingshot is an artist-championing collaboration between NPR Music and 18 VuHaus member stations — including founding stations WXPN, WFUV, KCRW, KUTX and The Bridge.

Over the summer, programming staff from the member stations each nominated a handful of artists to throw their support behind over the coming year. The submissions were reviewed, and the stations came to a consensus — Big ThiefJamila Woods and Lo Moon would be backed by Slingshot affiliates through interviews, editorial coverage, live performances and more over the next several months.

“Everybody in this room knows the impact of public radio on artist development,”  XPN general manager Roger LaMay told the crowd at NonCOMM this spring. “It’s really been essential with NonCOMMs and public radio writ large to pool our resources and work together to grow our impact.” Continue reading →


PHOTOS: Jamila Woods and TheMIND at Johnny Brenda’s

Jamila Woods | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Chicago singer, songwriter and poet Jamila Woods took the stage to a sold-out Johnny Brenda’s crowd last Wednesday night. Woods was on tour in support of her acclaimed 2016 LP HEAVN, and brought with her fellow Chi-towners theMIND, a production and multiinstrumental duo. Philly’s DJ Aura spun in between sets, and you can check out scenes from the evening care of photographer Koof Ibi Umoren. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Hiss Golden Messenger at World Cafe Live, Kweku Collins at Johnny Brenda’s, Wolf Alice at The Trocadero, and more

Hiss Golden Messenger | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

The ever-changing personnel and spectrum of recordings from Hiss Golden Messenger is anchored by the uber-talented compositional abilities of band leader M.C. Taylor. The Durham, North Carolina resident, whose instantly recognizable voice straddles Bob Dylan and Jim James, maintained his high level of songwriting and acoustic indie rock on Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2017 project Hallelujah Anyhow. Taylor writes of religious questioning, homesickness, and unexpected love on the new album with a bluesy conviction driving the project along. World Cafe Live hosts Taylor and Hiss Golden Messenger tonight, and the set is sure to impress. Pick up tickets quick from the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


Rooted in history and looking to the future, Mick Jenkins will bring his sanctified take on hip-hop to the TLA

Mick Jenkins | via

Raised on the Southside of Chicago, but born below the Mason-Dixon line (Huntsville, Alabama, to be exact), the blues lies at the center of Mick Jenkins’ music. Historically, it has been the blues (and its stylistic cousin, gospel) that have acted as the animating core of all black music that has followed it: jazz, rock and roll, R&B and hip-hop. Throughout the shifts in popular music, the blues has remained, like a ghost, giving voice to the struggle, pain and transcendent joy of black American culture.

Over the course of the past decade, hip hop in particular has evolved to a point where synthesis and advanced musical programming techniques have replaced sampling, with more emphasis being placed on creating futuristic soundscapes and less on repurposing the music of the past. For the first time in the history of American popular culture, we are witnessing a mainstream black music that isn’t reliant on the influences of the blues and the gospel sound of the church. Continue reading →


The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2016

“Can 2016 just stop already?” You’ve probably said that, or read that somewhere on your social media timeline. Typically I see it in reference to the heartbreaking celebrity deaths of 2016, from David Bowie to Prince, Sharon Jones to Leonard Cohen. But this year has also contained the most divisive political season in generations. There have been tragedies at home – mass shootings like the one at Pulse Orlando, floods in Louisiana, the fire at Oakland’s Ghost Ship arts community – and abroad – the conflict in Syria being a major one that not enough Americans are talking about.

But framing it all up as the unhappiness in the world ending along with the year, unfortunately, misses the point. Beloved celebrities are going to die in 2017. The political tone of the country is, in all likelihood, not going to improve. Catastrophic things will happen all around us, and all around the world, and there’s little we can do to stand in the way.

I don’t say all this to be a massive bummer this holiday season (honestly, though, parties and presents do feel more trivial than ever). Rather, it’s to underscore the importance of music in or lives. Continue reading →


Just Announced: Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker to play an all-ages and 21+ show at JB’s this March

Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief | photo by Scott Troyan for WXPN

If you couldn’t attend the Project Pabst fest this past September — and if, like I, you were distraught at missing Big Thief performing in the general vicinity without your presence to soak in the immense beautifulness of it — don’t you fret. You can still experience the soft, lulling magnificence of front woman Adrianne Lenker’s project this March at Johnny Brenda’s. Continue reading →