2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the singer’s first offering, Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1. The interrogative was strictly for new fans, who were transmogrified by Scott’s masterful poetry. The singer/songwriter was not at all confused by her being, having done the work necessary to get to the center of her Black womanhood. She just thought we were worthy enough of being privy to her findings.
Self-love has become a buzzword in recent years. Much like the term self-care, it’s been warped for capitalistic purposes and used to persuade personal investment in major brands. As time passes, it becomes more difficult to wipe away the muck of economic interest, and stomach the stench of emotion stirred up out of greed. But upon listening to Scott’s album, it becomes apparent that her interest was always in maintaining the purity of the concept. Through her words, she taught me how to wrap my own soul in adoration.
On the Latin-infused track “One Is the Magic Number,” Scott enumerates on the power that comes from understanding yourself. “I found the lasting love for me/If I am searching for my spirituality passionately/I must begin with me,” she sings at the end of the first verse.
Self-compassion is a highly personal journey and I’ve learned the right way to navigate it from the high priestess of progressive passion. Scott was among the special crew of Black women in music, along with Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu—all then 20-somethings who were wise beyond their years—who were willing to publicly express their devotion for their own existence. In a world where Black women aren’t always cloaked in safety or cared for, it is imperative we understand the fulfillment that comes from being your own cloak. Jill Scott has been a master teacher.
The singer also allowed her debut album to be a lesson on serving others, namely romantic partners. Scott fed, defended and even lamented her lovers, never thinking twice about being an open book. She walks us through the various stages of relations, not shying away from being head over heels in love—an emotion that some of us sometimes circumvent. But on Who Is Jill Scott?, her intentions were as uncontaminated as holy water. She wasn’t afraid to give her all.
In my own life, there have been times where I held back in romance. I held on to love with an iron grip, unknowingly crushing it with cold, calloused hands. My reluctance to give freely came from fear of the exchange not working out. As I listen to Scott’s words and sounds, I realize that it’s not real if you’re withholding. Boundaries are key, that much is true, but there is a distinct difference between having healthy boundaries and being afraid take off the armor.
To feed and be fed in the most spiritual sense—those are the most significant lessons from her debut album that have stayed with me. I’ve come to realize that it was always her goal to teach Black women how to give and receive the sensitivity that we deserve.
Who is Jill Scott? Why, a beacon of tenderness, no doubt.