September 28, 2000

A New Queen of Hip-Hop

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Jill Scott is now a member of an elite group of hip-hop divas who break onto the scene with a solo debut that absolutely blows people away. In one year, Jill Scott will be a Lauryn Hill or Macy Gray.

You may think you don’t know her, but she’s already won a grammy for writing last year’s The Root’s single “Baby, you got me.” (You know, that one sung by Erykah Badu.)

Now she’s solo and she’s the best thing to come out of Philly since cheese steaks.

Who Is Jill Scott? is more than just a hip-hop album. It’s poetry in motion and Jill Scott is verbally assaulting us with her rhymes and rhythms.

By the end of the album, one feels like we actually do know who Jill Scott is. And not on a superficial level. We have had a deep communication with her.

“Inspiration comes from listening to hip-hop,” she croons in the sample-filled “Jilltro.” That’s exactly what it is: an introduction to Jill Scott. And again reminiscent of Lauryn Hill, she raps about love and what it means to her music and her life.

Later, she doesn’t seem afraid to tell us about men she’s dated and love she’s lost. “Our beautiful melody became wildly stac-cat-to.”

Ok, we’re ready for Jill Scott.

She comes out strongly with “Do you remember” as she hits high notes with style and then comes down to earthly levels rapping about childhood loves. The beats are slow and succulent, a veritable cornucopia of style. Quite an album opening.

Yet cut after cut, Scott stands out, changing styles, beats, and sounds, yet she never comes off forced and never dissapoints.

There are stand-out songs, but none comes out as a hit-maker. She’s no Britney.

In fact, she’s more of an Ella Fitzgerald. Her cuts have strong jazz influence yet we know she grew up on the Roots and Tribe Called Quest, because the fact is the girl can rap and sing. On “Gettin’ in the way” she shows how jazzy she can get with simple lyrics, moving smoothly through difficult chords, changing up beats without missing a one.

On “A Long Walk,” (yet another perfect cut) she raps, “maybe we could take a cruise or listen to The Roots/ or maybe eat some passion fruits or maybe … cry/ or maybe listen to the blues/ or maybe just be silent.”

So simple yet so evocative. And every song hits you with this passion, with this love for her culture, her music and the mere ups and downs of life.

Most albums slow down, run out of steam later, but Scott never stops. Its as if she’s been bursting with more beats, rhymes and poetry than the hip-hop world is ready to hear.

Later, in “The Roots (interlude),” Scott adds what Roots fans will remember as her appearance singing on 1999’s Roots Come Alive

“J-I-L-L-S-C-O-T-T,” she croons in the short interlude. It’s an unnecessary explanation, though. We won’t soon forget her name.

Archived article by Jason Weinstein