Review Summary: An excellent blend of Jazz, R&B and Spoken Word.
"Are you nervous to perform after [Erykah Badu
"Have you seen me perform?"
It may sound arrogant, and maybe it is, but that's neither here nor there. It's an interesting quote for a number of reasons: firstly, as Jill points out earlier on in the documentary (Dave Chappelle's Block Party), Erykah did a lot for women like them. That's not the main thing that interests me, though. Erykah Badu
and Jill Scott have more in common than their styles. In 1999, the Roots
hit it big with their single You Got Me
, a song that was in fact co-written by Jill Scott. The label, however, didn't feel that she was "high profile" enough, and that the Roots
needed someone established to perform on the track with them, as Jill Scott was then virtually unknown outside of her local music scene. And so with that, Jill's vocals on the bridge and chorus of the track were re-recorded by Erykah Badu
. Now, to say there's bad blood is far from the truth, as Jill's dues were eventually paid.
My point is Jill Scott is human. Though she's outspoken in her admiration for Erykah, she's out to prove she's more than capable of taking the crown. And that she does.
Jill Scott's realness is re-visited minutes later in the film as Jill introduces herself formally.
Hi, I'm Jill Scott, and this is my pimple Herbert.
Jill Scott is a real person, and she's loved for it.
The album in question asks Who Is Jill Scott?
, and there is no one more fitting to answer than Jill herself. Jill Scott is Jill Scott. She is a vocalist and poet, a spoken word artist not far from her possible namesake (Gil Scott-Heron) who possesses the bombastic vocal qualities of the Aretha Franklin's of our world. But that is not who she is; she is neither eccentric, nor is she overtly outspoken. Jill Scott is Jill Scott, and this was the spark of her genius.
Jill Scott is subdued, but loud. Implicit, yet bombastic; calm, collected, but cool...and she knows it. This, her debut album, did much for her career, but it all started a lot sooner. As previously mentioned, Jill Scott's first major appearance, the one that never actually happened, was on the Roots
track You Got Me. So where is the connection?
Early on, when Jill Scott dropped out of school (she was thinking of becoming a teacher) to pursue music/poetry, she got into the local music scene pretty quickly. Open mic nights were her forte, and she regularly dominated. As time progressed, she started performing alongside several well known acts, most notably the Roots
[Sense]. She built her connections early, and they were strong. As you already know, performing with the Roots
led to bigger things.
And Who Is Jill Scott?
is a bigger thing.
It's her first album, so to say it's devoid of fault would be ludicrous. In fact, the album is laden with little idiosyncrasies that most people probably won't appreciate, and that's what makes it what it is. It's sort of an odd mix of Spoken Word and R&B, and it's carried along very slowly, Jill's smooth voice spouting poetry write from the pages of her notebook. It's this reason alone that this album is not for everyone. Spoken Word is quite the esoteric genre, as when it all comes down to it, it's not even really a musical genre. But like I said, that's not all you'll find on the album; Jill is first and foremost classified as an R&B singer. And she's one hell of a singer. She's also a pretty well versed poet. All of this is explored on the album.
Thematically, the album is your typical R&B release, as virtually the entire album is about romantic endeavours, love, and the like. The album starts off with an intr...Jilltro
, which is exactly what it sounds like. It introduces Jill and her influences; she loves to sing, she loves to read and write poetry; it comes from her love of hip-hop, it comes from her love of R&B. So this is Jill Scott.
The disc starts off on a more traditional R&B note. With a smooth jazzy backdrop, Jill sings (often in a higher range) "do you remember me?". It's vocally one of the more laid-back songs, and though you definitely get the idea that Jill is ready to just unleash the power we all know she has, she doesn't. This basically carries through on the whole album, because though she does occasionally let loose, Jill definitely exercises restraint.
The next track introduces us to the less straight-forward side of things. Instrumentally, it sounds just like a Roots track. But atop the jazzy hip-hop beat, Jill speaks off-time about some sensitive subject matter, literally. She talks about some morning lovin' from her boyfriend. Apparently he was licking and sucking on everything, just like he should. It's definitely uncomfortable, but the bigger picture is actually about a run-in with her man's ex-boyfriend. But right off the bat you have a pretty solid idea of what you're going to find.
The album has some definite stand-outs, most notably A Long Walk
, which earned her a Grammy in 2003 for Best Female Vocal Performance. It's definitely the strongest track on the album. Typically smooth, typically jazzy, this is one of the tracks where Jill sings and let's loose. Starting off with a quaint, quiet singing voice, A Long Walk
also contains one of her better lyrical
performances. I emphasize lyrical, because much of the more traditional poetry found on the album is also pretty strong. The song starts to hint at a climax about two and a half minutes in, and then around ten seconds in it really
picks up. This is where, as Randy Jackson would say, she shows us she can blow. The song, always building to a climax it most definitely hits, is well deserving of its Grammy nod, as Jill's voice exhibits unthinkable honestly and passion.
To cut this a little short, I can't seem to stress enough how outstanding this album is. While at times it can be a little bit too mellow for some, and the odd metering on the spoken word tracks are definitely hit or miss, something about this disc just does it for me. A lot of it has to do with what I spoke about earlier: knowing just how powerful Jill's voice really is makes me respect her ability to effectively use it. Her ability to practice restraint is outstanding. This is definitely the album that started her terrific career, and the trend only continues with her later releases. Jill, in my opinion, does a lot of things her contemporaries are doing. She does the whole Jazz/Neo-Soul/R&B thing, but the thing is she does it a lot better than others. And then she mixes it all with solid bouts of Spoken Word poetry and a strong narrative. Her lyrics are magical in the sense that they're personal and seem to deal with actual events, yet all the same they're things a lot of people can obviously relate to. When you throw it all together, all of these factors make for a coruscating debut that not only hints at her true genius, but lets it shine from time to time.
A Long Walk
Try/Love Rain (an alternate version of Love Rain features Mos Def
and is a hidden track found at the end of Try).