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Herself every time

Jill Scott brings a new poetic sound to hip hop.


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Published 12/6/2000

Jill Scott is smokiní. When I first heard her album, it melted, moved and mesmerized me. After I bought it and listened to it for the second time, I spent a few minutes the next day e-mailing friends about it. Often I got the response, "Who is Jill Scott?" and Iíd say, "Thatís the name of the album. Pick it up."

Jill Scott started spouting lyrics at local poetry haunts in Philadelphia. While the crowd was feeling her vibe, she started hearing sounds. No, she wasnít crazy, just evolving into the Jill Scott sheís supposed to be. She took those tunes out of her head and matched them with her poems. Then she wrote a Grammy-winning song for the Roots ("You Got Me"). She knew her stuff was ti-ight because she started shopping it to local producers. And she was right. Jazzy Jeff (her producer) lucked out when they met ó not Jill.

And on the phone, Scott (a former salesperson at a boutique) is humble but real.

Metro Times: Who is Jill Scott?

Jill Scott: I wish I could answer that question. Letís see Ö Iím 28, a black woman from North Philly. I have love in my life and a dog. I have a good relationship with the Creator. Maybe at 85, I can answer your question in full, but I donít know.

MT: How did you transition from reading poetry in a club to recording an album?

Scott: At my poetry readings I started to hear sounds in the words. Eventually, some of the parts would be spoken and some sung. And I felt that all these songs should be recorded. I started to call producers ó everyone I knew ó and eventually I ran into Jazzy Jeff.

MT: What about when you were traveling with the Roots? How did that happen?

Scott: One night at a club, Quest Love (the Rootsí drummer) asked me do a song for the album. We toured through the U.S. and Europe in March of 1998.

MT: How was that (on tour with the Roots) since that was your first time touring?

Scott: It was hard. The food was different, money was different and it was so much travel. It was such a change in life as I had known it. But I got to see how itís done.

MT: What was it about being on tour that really stuck with you?

Scott: It really takes a certain work ethic. You have to stay healthy and spiritually balanced. You have to know whoís doing this, who is responsible for these great things. Also, your family and friends are very important and so is having a good relationship with the band. Above all, you must stay connected with your audience. 

MT: On your album, you mention that Sarah Vaughan and Christopher Wallace (Notorious B.I.G.) are your muses. What is it about them that inspires you?

Scott: They are two of my truest inspirations ó not all. Sarah Vaughan had a way with her voice. She didnít have to say anything, but I believed what she had to say. She was honest in her singing. Biggie is one of the best storytellers I ever heard. And thatís what I try to do with my songs.

MT: Whatís your favorite song on the album?

Scott: That depends on the day. Sometimes itís a "Slowly Surely" moment for me. When Iím far away, I listen to "He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)" often, because I miss him (Lyzel, her fiance).

MT: Do you see your music and poetry as another form of music which differs from R&B and hip hop?

Scott: I havenít really thought about it. The texture of every music Iíve ever appreciated is in this album. Jazz, Latin, R&B, funk. Music doesnít have to be classified as long as people can feel it and if it touches our hearts, souls and minds. Because we have so much going on in the world.

MT: Which video will be released next?

Scott: "A Long Walk" is the next single. Just like "Gettiní in the Way," I have something a little interesting in mind as well (laughs). Itís not what I would call a remix ó I like to call it a re-do. Actually, thatís the first song I created for the album.

MT: Are your songs all based on your own experiences?

Scott: Everything is personal.

MT: Your song "Love Rain" ó is it about a girl who gets played by a guy who really doesnít like her?

Scott: Well, the guy is really interested, but itís a player thing. The guy will do whatever it takes until you give them what they want. You think they want your mind, your time, and they really want something else. And that hurts.

MT: Why do you think your music is so popular?

Scott: Weíve gotten a lot of the same stuff, just different people behind it. Thereís no real creativity ó itís the same concepts, the same subject matter. My album came out at a good time, because people want something else. Something new.

MT: Who are you compared to in the music industry?

Scott: Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, Angie Stone Ö I understand why. I get it. But Iím an individual. My writing and my voice are not like anyone elseís. I think itís rude to be placed in a box. To do it to black women ó I donít appreciate it. Mandy Moore and Christina Aguilera ó theyíre all themselves.

MT: Whatís next for Jill Scott?

Scott: Iím back on tour in LA, Chicago, Detroit and Houston. Iím writing. Iím really ready to create the next album. My music is good and I know it is. And I love to share it. God is great. Jehovah is amazing me every time I see something else or something new. I am amazed.

MT: Is there anything youíd like to say to your fans?

Scott: Iíd just like to say thank you, to all of the people whoíve opened up their mouths to tell others about Jill Scott.

Curtrise Garner is a freelance writer from Detroit. E-mail her at

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