By Kobie Brown
(AllHipHop Features) Long before COVID-19, the artist Prince released the record “1999”, where he sang of the Armageddon, the possible end of the world, and the biggest party of the year that would usher in a new millennium; the year 2000. In the first month of that fateful year, The Roots dropped their single, “You Got Me”. It is a song that in many ways set the stage for the already epic Verzuz event between singers Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
“You Got Me” was released on MCA Records, which compared to its contemporaries of Def Jam, Jive Records, Bad Boy or Interscope, wasn’t particularly known for successful Hip-Hop records or artists, but the song featured a dynamic chorus and bridge sung by Erykah Badu and a rap verse performed by rapper Eve. The Roots were unique because Black Music lacked Hip-Hop bands then, and now, and this particular song married fire lyrics by its Philly frontman Black Thought with Eve, a very musical instrumental bed, and an unforgettable chorus. The success that followed was driven by radio’s attraction to the song as well as the voice of its featured artist, Erykah Badu who had stepped onto the music scene two years earlier, winning a host of awards; from Favorite New R&B/Soul or Rap Artist at the Soul Train Awards, to Best R&B Album Grammy Award for the release of her debut album, Baduism. As Def Jam’s Senior VP or A&R, Naim Ali, who was then a product manager at MCA Records recalls, “It was the Roots’ fastest growing and biggest performing radio single at the time of its release. The label chose to replace [its then unknown singer] in order to guarantee a strong radio promotional campaign.”
Twenty-one years later, very few music lovers know the co-writer whose vocals once appeared on “You Got Me” was a woman from Philadelphia. With her performance jettisoned at the suggestion of label brass in order to ensure the record’s success at radio, it would be easy to assume the world would forever ask, Who Is Jill Scott? What followed beside a 2000 Grammy Award for The Roots and Erykah Badu for their offering was, instead, a continuing tidal wave that gave rise to a new millennium of R&B music built upon the success of artists such as Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Angie Stone, Groove Theory’s Amel Larriuex and eventually Jill Scott, who would release her own debut LP in July 2000.
Like their female counterparts, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott gave voice to the lived experiences, love experiences and Hip-Hop sensibilities of music lovers, but most importantly to the first of at least two generations of black women who may have also begun their day with “toast, two scrambled eggs and grits”, and who honored their existing relationships to the refrain of “how can I want you for myself when I’m already someone’s girl?” Like their musical peers in the dominating field of Hip Hop, the production of their music was inspired by, and in some cases, co-written through sampling of, artists who preceded them.
Here’s a look at the record to which their souls and careers are forever tied, and some of their songs rooted in samples of songs from generations past.
“You Got Me” by The Roots (1999)
“Back In The Day” by Erykah Badu (2003) sampling “Face To Face” by Flight
“Face To Face” by Flight
In addition to laying tracks for Busta Rhymes, producer Rashad “Ringo” Smith connects with Badu over a sample of a lesser-known Motown Jazz Funk song.
“Didn’t Cha Know” by Erykah Badu
“Dreamflower” by Tarika Blue
“Bag Lady (Remix)” by Erykah Blue
“Bumpy’s Lament” by Mack Browne & The Brothers
This version of a classic song composed by Isaac Hayes for the film Shaft was made popular at the time by Dr. Dre .
“Family Reunion” by Jill Scott sampling “Look Over Your Shoulder” by The Escorts
“Look Over Your Shoulder” by The Escorts
Also known as The Legendary Escorts, this group formed in Rahway State Prison before catching the eye of Motown Records producer, George Kerr.
“Slowly Surely” by Jill Scott sampling “Days Gone by (Egyptology)” by Moe Koffman
“Days Gone by (Egyptology)” by Moe Koffman
“Brotha” by Jill Scott sampling “Get Out My Life Woman” by Joe Williams and The Jazz Orchestra
“Get Out My Life Woman” by Joe Williams and The Jazz Orchestra
THE ROOTS FEAT. JILL SCOTT & ERYKAH BADU
The Roots – You Got Me feat. Jill Scott & Erykah Badu Live at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2004)
More than twenty years have passed since 1999 and in the face of a global pandemic, hundreds of thousands, or possibly millions of people, will take a few hours to enjoy a live battle between Erykah Badu VZ. Jill Scott. It seems fitting that producers Timbaland and Swizz Beats, and coordinators of VERZUZ, would promote and brand the event using the image of the late Dr. Betty Shabazz. In doing so they remind us this event is more than a battle or competition.
In this moment exists a showcase of the excellence of Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, their fans, the music and community they represent, but most importantly, the ability of these ingredients to reveal the intellectual greatness and artistic expression of black women, worldwide.
Kobie Brown is an audiophile who serves as Senior Director, Business Affairs / Music Licensing at a major record corporation, who loves talking music, samples and songs. https://twitter.com/Askkobie