You may think you know who the real Jill Scott is but you have no idea. Most of us met Jill Scott as she asked the same question in her freshman album, Who Is Jill Scott: Words and Sounds Vol. 1? But who was she before then? Getting to know her past and accomplishments brings us all deeper into her experience and how she got to be one of the few major artists with two concurrent projects on mainstream radio and media.
Growing up in inner city Philadelphia, Jill Scott was an only child in a highly abusive household. In her early teens, she and her mom escaped the household to a crowded grandmother’s abode where she groomed a nurturing relationship with her grandmother and mom. Ambitious, and motivated to make more of herself, she turned to the pen for her outlet. Yes, Jill Scott started as a spoken word artist and went to Temple to gain credentials to be a high school English teacher, but was heavily discouraged for her musical pneumonic devices to help the kids retain information. Not giving up, she moved on to more writing and performing, and was granted her first major role in the Canadian cast of RENT. From then on, she bloomed.
Found by Philadelphia’s DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Roots’ ?uestlove, they took Miss Jill Scott under their wing after she wrote the phenomenal ‘You Got Me’. The two producers knew there was talent there, so they challenged her for a complete project and with the first 50 songs, she was ready. Though only 18 cuts made the first CD, she was signed with the then new Hidden Beach for a six album deal. As Steve McKeever’s first artist on Hidden Beach, she was once again an only child gem, revered by those around her, and released her first album in 2000.
Since then Jill has released a total of 5 other albums (Beautifully Human, The Real Thing, Collaborations, Live in PARIS+, ExperienceJill Scott 826+) before releasing the two concurrent projects out today. Why does she have two albums out? Why not? If you are a true fan you have heard about her recent legal complications with Hidden Beach and her new distribution deal with Warner Bros. I guess this is the test to what her next step is, hopefully she makes a great decision as we look forward to more music from her. Three Grammy awards (two for best Urban Alternative Performance– 2005 & 2008, and one for Best Traditional R&B Performance– 2007) has put Ms. Jill Scott in the forefront of the music industry as a viable arrest, vocalist, writer, actress and philanthropist.
Light of the Sun: Words & Sounds Vol. 4, which was released first, under Warner Bros., is a groovy star-studded, multi-faceted album full of both mid tempo and slow beats. Admittedly, this album is much more like what we have grown to love from Jill Scott, and follows the curve of her development. As always her writing is supreme but none of the songs prove memorable as a ‘Long Walk’, ‘He Loves Me’, ‘Golden’, or ‘Crown Royal’. The lead singles ‘So Gone ft Paul Wall’, and ‘Hear My Call’ both have compelling videos and seems like they were left off previous albums as they fit more of a Beautifully Human or Real Thing album. Other than that not much grabs my attention but the cameos and her smooth 1stsoprano vocals. I do miss something from this album, its not the emotion as its relevant in Hear My Call, its not the beats because Blessed & Shame captivate my joints and force me to move. I think its her, she is missing. Some of the songs are undeniable, like Le Boom vent Suite, where she tells the perfect compliment to her in life and love. Though the songs are somewhat captivating, and mildly memorable, the message thatJill always embeds in her subject matter isn’t there. This album is full of love and fillers, and seems to appeal to the more crossover audience. With some genuine love making songs, from So In Love ft Anthony Hamilton to Missing You, Light of The Sun falls a few stars short of her last albums and will hopefully make up for the buzz with exciting videos and mainstream radio play.
Now, The Original Jill Scott Vault: Vol 1, on the other hand oozes genuine, authentic Jilly from Philly. From its intro track The Light, Ms.Scott jumps into her message and vocal prowess immediately by foreshadowing the introspective ‘Comes To the Light’. And in the background we can hear those C6 and D7 full vibrato notes that we remember in songs like ‘Gimme’ and ‘Spring Summer Feeling’. This album tells more of a story about where she is in life now. Though these tracks are a compilation of previously recorded songs that didn’t make an album, I can’t see how these could have been kept any longer. With eclectic beats ranging from reggae to hip hop, and connectable themes, The Vault album is definitely more of her home base. Tracks like ‘Running’, ‘Comes to the Light’ & ‘Wake Up Baby’, tell about trials in and out of love and how important communication is in a healthy relationship. A lot can be learned from this album, and much to our approval, the album was dynamically A&R’d to produce the sound true Jill fans are accustomed to. Our overall favorite track is ‘Wondering Why’, as Jill tries to skillfully figure out “I’m just wondering why you don’t talk to me anymore, the way you used to.”
In comparison, the two albums out right now (Hidden Beach present The Original Jill Scott Vault: Vol 1 & Light of the Sun: Words & Sounds Vol. 4), are night and day of the artist. In sum, both albums are full of innovative, recognizable Jill Scott from her initial days at Hidden Beach. Light of The Sun: Words & Sounds Vol 4 is definitely a more exploratory album, spanning new subject matter, a more mainstream Jill, and a less provocative, revolutionary, thought evoking writing style. I enjoy that album for its radio appeal and star studded cameos however, some might enjoy the Jill Scott we have loved for the last decade. The Original Jill Scott Vault: Vol 1. presented by Hidden Beach offers a more cohesive story telling experience with classic Jill Scott in range, form, and vocals. When listening to music, especially from Jill Scott, I expect to learn something, be soothed by vocals, and swayed by backbeats. I guess Jill Scott has been an effective teacher nonetheless, as she has dropped knowledge on how an artist can be mainstream while still keeping her ‘rooted’ fan base and staying true to herself. Conclusively, out of 5 stars, The Briggs Report & The Soul Letter give Jill Scott’s The Light of The Sun 3.25 stars and The Original Jill Scott Vault 4.5 stars.