|The voice seemingly blasted onto the scene from nowhere, soaring to piercing highs and dipping to rich lows, making people repeat the question her album’s title poses: Who is Jill Scott? Check her out in the December issue of ESSENCE.
Whether she is singing about long walks through the park or warning you that you’ll get a beatdown for chasing her man, she pumps new life into the tradition of sistas who can sang. If you haven’t yet heard her debut album — which just went gold — or you simply want to know more about the soulful diva, here are ten fast facts:
Illy Jilly from Philly
Jill hails from Philadelphia, a city known for its rich Black music history. She’s part of a current neo-soul/hip-hop renaissance, along with fellow Philly artists like The Roots, Bahamadia, Eve, Jazzyfatnastees, Bilal, D.J. Jazzy Jeff and Musiq Soulchild.
It’s in the genes, y’all
The only other person in Jill’s family who sang was her grandmother — not professionally, but in the tub every morning. She and other family members would eavesdrop on her grandmother while she was warbling praises to Jehovah for the magnificence of her hands and feet. Jill credits her grandmother for her earthy style.
Lil’ Miss Wordsmith
Jill wrote her first poem in the eighth grade, but because she aspired to be a teacher, she didn’t pick up her poet’s pen again until her twenties. At first, she wanted to keep her poems to herself, but impressed friends weren’t trying to hear it. They convinced her to perform at poetry readings, and after an overwhelming response, girlfriend was hooked!
A true calling
Jill studied English literature at Temple University, but dropped out during her third year, in search of something closer to her heart. Not long after leaving school in 1998 she landed a part in the Canadian production of the hit Broadway musical Rent.
Her flavor tastes like…
Jill has been compared to contemporary artists like Lauryn Hill and references to Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder and Minnie Ripperton have also popped up. But she flips her flow so many ways, it’s obvious Jill’s got a style all her own.
When Jill sings about love, you’d best believe that it’s for real. One of the tracks on Who Is Jill Scott?, “A Long Walk,” is about her first date with fiancé, Lyzel Williams, a graphic designer.
She’s not hatin’
Although you hear Erykah Badu’s distinctive vocals on The Roots’ hit single “You Got Me,” it was Jill who co-penned and provided the original vocal hook for the track. Initially upset that her vocals weren’t used, she quickly got over it when the song won a Grammy for best rap performance (duo or group) in 1999.
Everyone’s down with Jill
If Jill’s soaring vocals sound familiar, it’s because she’s appeared on a host of albums including The Roots’ The Roots Come Alive, motion picture soundtracks for The Wood, In Too Deep and Wild Wild West, Will Smith’s Willennium, and Common’s Like Water for Chocolate.
Can a sista get some love?
During the three months she toured with Rent in Vancouver, Jill was baffled by the lack of love she received from some Canadian brothas who, for some reason, wouldn’t even say hello to her on the streets. She says her song “Do You Remember?” reflects on that experience.
Stay healthy, Jill
Jill was diagnosed in September with Sudden Deafness Syndrome. Caused by strenuous physical activity or sudden changes in barometric pressure (like air travel), the condition temporarily robbed her of 85 percent of her hearing in her right ear. But she’s better now, touring once again and sharing that amazing voice.
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