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Who is Jill Scott? A Timeless Treasure.

Vincent | July 18, 2020
Retrospective: Who Is Jill Scott?

JULY 18, 2000

Jill Scott’s debut album, entitled Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1, opens with the song “Do You Remember.” She asks, “do you remember me?” before recounting a series of unforgettable memories. Surely, he remembered her. For the listener, though, this was an introduction. In retrospect, the answers to both questions (“Who is Jill Scott?” and “Do you remember me?”) would be met with resounding yeses. Jill Scott’s debut album firmly secured her immovable place in the realm of R&B music royalty.

UNFILTERED PERSONALITY

Track two of Who Is Jill Scott? slides from the nostalgia to the present with “Exclusively.” Showing off her more poetic side, “Exclusively” plays like a spoken-word a narrative as Jill glides her rhymes effortlessly atop the prodding beat. A tale of a trip to the market after morning sex, the track’s title proves to be ironic as the story unfolds. I won’t spoil the ending, in case you haven’t heard it, but let’s just say Jill wasn’t about to go home as happy as she had left it. What’s important here, though, is that this track lets you know that Jill’s album isn’t like any you’ve ever heard before. Her songs are not only unfiltered, but also a unique combination of poetry and song.

Jill’s personality continues to shine on “Gettin’ in the Way,” this time, she’s full of attitude and fresh out of fucks. An anthem for anyone who has ever dealt with their significant-other’s jealous ex, “Gettin’ in the Way” lays out the law simple and plain: get out of the way, or Jill will lay you out instead. I’m not quite sure anyone BUT Jill Scott could write a lyric like this: “Queens shouldn’t swing if you know what I mean, but I’m ’bout to take my rings off, get me some vaseline.” Hilariously, on the live album, she explains how interviewers would chastise her for “promoting violence,” but Jill just laughed it off: “Sometimes, for principle, you might have to whoop some ass.” And that’s that on that.

TIMELESS LOVE SONGS

A modern classic, and the album’s biggest hit, “A Long Walk” is a gloriously descriptive and perfectly balanced amalgamation of poetry and song. Infectious after the first listen, the tongue-twisting bridge and cathartic jubilance of its chorus make for a five minutes of Neo-Soul bliss. It’s as if Jill is narrating a romance film and “A Long Walk” is its soundtrack. If you’re ever out of date night ideas, just spin this cut and find your inspiration.

Clocking in at just under two minutes, “I Think It’s Better” is a prelude to yet another classic produced by Jill’s debut album: “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat).” On gorgeous sonic depiction of finding the ever-idealized true love Jill illustrates every reason and way why her man loves her. It embodies the album’s subtitle, “words and sounds.” With her lyrics and her vocals, she exudes passion and devotion. Its live performances are even more dramatic and striking, during which Jill turns the song into a symphony of sorts. Jill is one of the few artists who makes her songs even better in their live form. The 2001 live version had three movements and goes on for nine magical minutes:

CELEBRATE LOVE

Jill continues to profess her love on the next track, “It’s Love.” It’s an energetic celebration of love, bolstered by vibrant horns, lively percussion and powerful vocals that acts as the perfect transition between “He Loves Me” and yet another gem, “The Way.” Beloved for it’s famous “grits” line and so much more, this feel-good groove epitomizes love. Singing her way through a blissful morning, “The Way” is yet another narrative that serves up the many splendors of love. Jill’s unique storytelling and soul-filled vocals fill her listeners with life and love.

Dripping in sensuality, “Honey Molasses” is a ballad of loneliness and yearning that creates another seamless transition into “Love Rain,” the album’s bouncy lead single. Yet another showcase of Jill’s many talents, the track blends spoken word, sung-poetry and moody melodies to craft a uniquely varied composition. “Slowly Surely” is another slow groove that fits a similar mold, however, it shifts the topic of conversation from a heart full of love, to heartbreak.

INTROSPECTION & INNOVATION

“One is the Magic #” is another album highlight continues the introspective, post-heartbreak theme. Kicked off with some Spanish-inspired horns, this shamelessly honest cut even finds Jill trying out her Spanish language skills. However, the message here is that you must learn to love yourself before you can love others. Jill’s ever clever lyricism shines here, but so does her voice. With operatic background vocals, she really schools us as to who she is on her debut album.

Flipping the topic again, “Watching Me” is a percussion heavy grove that sounds ahead of its time, both sonically and lyrically. It’s sort of eery how apt the lyrics sound twenty years later. Written and released before cell phones and internet access were far from ubiquitous, “Watching Me” is about how our privacy is dwindling in the digital era. She even gets political for a second, talking about drugs, guns and dirty cops in her community. It’s amazing how relevant the song is to this day, especially the lyric “and you keep saying that we’re free.” Similarly relevant, “Brotha” is a song that’s purpose is to uplift Black men. Its message is one that is especially appropriate in the face of recent movements for racial justice, as Black men disproportionately fall victim to police brutality and killings.

So… WHO IS JILL SCOTT?

The album officially comes to a close with “Show Me,” a quiet-storm-ready sensual slow jam, however, if you let your CD play, eventually Jill will bless you with two more (hidden) tracks: the inspirational bop “Try” and the bump-ready “Head Nod Mix” of “Love Rain,” featuring Mos Def.

All these years later, anyone with taste knows Who Is Jill Scott: she is a timeless treasure. Jill Scott is R&B royalty. She is an accomplished actress, a poignant songwriter, an impressive vocalist, an astute musician and a vivacious performer. Jill Scott is here to stay, and the album that introduced her to the world no longer needs the question mark. Jill Scott is unforgettable.

Listen to Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1

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