Jill Scott is a combination of intriguing beauty and flawless emotion. Combined with an array of talent and a smile that illuminates every place she graces, Jill has proved time and again that she is one of the world’s most contagious souls. Her latest opus, Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2, is titled perfectly, and the contents are sure to amaze.
Always on the verge of something groundbreaking, Jill took a mini hiatus to rediscover her human side and reenergize the spark from within. Her return, the release of the album, and her new video, “Golden”, are all a testament of her ever-flourishing spirit. In a candid and heartfelt conversation with Allhiphop.com Alternatives, she covers all the bases, including what she did during her time away from the spotlight and all the things is doing now to prove herself to be the gold standard of soul music.
AllHipHop Alternatives: Can you speak on what you are doing differently on your new project?
JILL: One of the things I thought was most important was not to stray away from my core; which is story telling, intentional voices. I like to use the right voice for the right song, and I try not to over produce the music or project – so that the lyrics can stand out more than anything else, and the feeling of it meets the lyrics. I try to stay in that particular pocket. I can’t really say how much I have done differently I like to stay in a particular course.
AHHA: What made you stay away so long?
JILL: It is funny that when you tell people you got married they assume you have to [stay away], but I didn’t have to, I wanted to. I took a year, and it wasn’t intentional – I just took that long because I was tired. More of spiritually exhaustion more then anything, because being on stage is a lot of spirit work, so I realized that I needed to replenish and I went home. It wasn’t the best idea for me not to support the album, but I needed to replenish.
I learned how to make new meals, planted roses in my house, I wrote a book of poetry called The Minutes, The Moments and The Hours which will be out in 2005. I directed a video for a friend Jeff Bradshaw, I was in a movie called Cave Dwellers with Kevin Bacon, Adrian Quinn that will be on Showtime this year in the fall. I started a foundation with my girlfriends called Blues Bay named after my grandmother – her name is Blue. We have sent 60 kids to school so far, we have given track suits to track teams and kept some libraries open.
I just needed to do something outside of music, and I didn’t sing at all for a year. Eventually the lyrics started coming. I wasn’t even looking for it – I thought it was over. I was like, ‘There is nothing happening. No music to wake me up’, and thought I should just move on. But then [songs] started coming in my sleep, waking me up really getting on my nerves, and I thought it was time to get back into it.
AHHA: Was your label going crazy waiting?
JILL: No. I am really thankful for that. They were very understanding, and I did see them when we went on vacation; talked about family things hung out and had fun. When the music started coming, the lyrics started coming. Yeah, they were happy, and we did about 60 songs in the course of that year. I am prepared. I am going to do some more music – because, of course, it hasn’t stopped coming – and do the next album a lot sooner than two years. As long as I know how to work now – I use to work hard, now I work smart. The work ethic is still real, but now I think smart instead of just running without going home. I would like to wash my own tub, iron my own clothes – those things are necessary to maintain your state of humanity.
AHHA: While gone did you have a fear of people forgetting about who you are?
JILL: It really wasn’t up to me. I have been following the spirit my whole life, and when I didn’t follow it I was jacked up. It was clear after a while I needed to refuel. You can’t drive a car forever without giving it some gas, you can’t wear the same sneaks without cleaning them up, whatever… you have you have to take care if it. It is the same thing with life. I thought, ‘Okay, whatever happens, happens the way it is suppose to be’. If people purchased the album supported it, listened to it to feel human and just feel, then great. If they stay away from it, it is not gonna stop me. I am still going to go on tour, I am still gonna do what I do.
AHHA: When I first heard ‘Golden’ I thought it was a gospel song. Would you consider it as gospel, because it has a certain spirituality to it?
JILL: That was not necessarily the intention, but any music could be anything; sometimes R&B sounds like Jazz and Jazz sounds like Hip Hop. It is all a fusion of a lot of things. I just chose to sang it like I did, I just chose to write it the way I did, because I felt that people were curious about where I was, and I just had to let them know. Like I am really nurturing my spirit, claiming my spirit – I am not a slave to an industry and I am not a slave to what you want either. You know people want you out there making music, and I do want to do that, but I feel a lot of artists have put themselves in that kind of grind but I am just not that girl. I must go home to Philly. I just have to.
AHHA: What is your perspective on Philly and like-minded people who have come from a similar place artistically?
JILL: It is a similar place. We all, as teenagers and young people and young adults, were all doing similar things. Like, for me, my mother really took me to see every kind of music; I saw rock bands, I saw Jazz bands and little Jazz in the cut, like some old dude like 75 years old with a cigarette in his mouth, playing the right bass just crying – like damn that kind of thing. That is what Philly offers, places in the cut were you could still speakeasy, and places you can go to listen to a different kind of music.
If you make a song singing absolutely nothing in Philly, they will listen to it – but they won’t buy it.. or you might get booed, or people will stop and start talking in the middle of your set. You have to say something that registers to Philly, which is very much a people place like small town, big city. Like people still say ‘good morning’ and ‘how are you doing?’ In other places you say ‘good morning’ they will look at you like you bumped your head instead of replying. That is the kind of place I come from, the place were music comes from [artists] like Jaguar and Kindred. So if you really wanna say something you got this time, you on stage so you better say something – even if no one agrees with you, you must have a point of view.
AHHA: Do you think people in the world have a sense of history that comes out of Philly music?
JILL: Well you hear a lot more Philly artists in Philly, such as Frankie Beverly; you will hear Patty Labelle and Teddy Pendergrass in every quiet storm. You’ll hear it, but it is not pushed down your throat, like the difference in Kindred, Jaguar and Pink and a lot of other artist coming through Black Lily, we came through trying to be better artists in front of an audience. There are a lot of artists that come and get all dressed up, and are so overly prepared that they are not prepared at all. People try to be stars, but need to be an artist – if that is your interest, just trying to be a star, then good luck to you. The Roots’ Black Thought is one of the realest MC’s and people don’t even realize. If you want to know about them, get the Do You Want More album – then move your way up to The Tipping Point.
AHHA: Did you start off as a spoken word poet then go into singing, or was it together?
JILL: I was always a singer, but I was child and didn’t have a lot to say, I had to love, lose, be angry, really angry – I had to deal with certain issues in my life before I could really start writing anything down. So when I started writing poetry I had my heart broken by myself, I knew dude wasn’t worth my time when I met him, but he was fine and got caught up. Once all that happened I wrote and shared it with my girlfriend, and she was like, ‘You have to go to a poetry reading’. I loved it and started going more, and eventually this voice started coming out of it, and it was a natural transition.
From there, directors started coming to here my poetry, asking if I was interested in theater. Instead of jumping in [unprepared], I took apprenticeship and fellowship in theaters were I had to build sets, hang lights, mop floors. After that I decided that I wanted to make an album and started calling producers. No one called me back for like six months. Eventually I met Jazzy Jeff, and ?uestlove was at a poetry reading and asked me if I wanted to write something for them, and it ended up being ‘You Got Me’.
AHHA: As poetry relates to lyrics, how do you balance or consider what people will think?
JILL: It is not my job to worry about what people are going to think, but I try to keep it very simple, very human, because there is nobody who is perfect. I wish I could take credit but I can’t, most of the lyrics come in my sleep and I have to hurry and write them down. The first time the lyrics came one line here, four lines there and I had to fill in the blanks, but it was good because I felt as if I had an outline. This time the lyrics just came in straight form and sometimes I had to write off the book I had to just grab something because my hand wouldn’t move.
Sometimes, interestingly enough, it went from right to left. It was real strange but I have learned not to be frightened by it – I just allow it to be as it is. I was very surprised by the lyrics, and I felt there is no reason to front on my spirit. They turn out real.
AHHA: How do you feel about the election, politics and the union as a whole?
JILL: I am upset with it as a whole, not just because of the election that has passed and Bush being in office and him lying to the people. The way he has consistently and showing carelessness about his choices and actions, not having a single Senator stand up and say ‘this is wrong and illegal’. I am pissed off about some of the amendments and rights that are in place that are no longer valid, like Blacks voting, the women suffrage. We are always talking about technology and moving into the future, but we are not dealing with our particular situation as human beings and as Americans.
I love this country, I appreciate this country my forefathers shed a lot of blood on this land to make it what it is today. A lot of these industries foundation are built on Black skin so how about reparations? I am not just talking about giving them money in their hand, what I do think is that Black people need a level of education to get off the four corners of there block. I am down for Kerry because he is the lesser of two evils, and I don’t want them to campaign for just two years – it should be eight years. Let me see what you can do in those years, not just how much money you can spend, or how much your dinners are. Let me see more than that what have you done in the community. Not just my community, but the communities in the United States of America. Overall I am pretty frustrated and hurt because I don’t think they have been representing all the people.