In 2000, she posed a seemingly simple query to an unprepared nation: "Who Is Jill Scott?". Today, everyone from Moby to Ron Isley can answer that question. Or can they? Having achieved multi-platinum status, everybody knows who she is. But one gets the feeling she was never concerned with attaining notoriety. The real question-the one actually asked-was "Who IS Jill Scott?" And its not easily answered since Scott isn't readily categorized. Another multifaceted phenom, Walt Whitman, once remarked, "I am large. I contain multitudes." Listening to her sing the song of herself on the live album, Experience: Jill Scott 8.26, you realize Jilly from Philly is equally complex.
Jill Scott is an MC. A "Supa MC" to quote De La Soul. Her words are weapons. Her tropes are dope. A veteran of Philadelphia's spoken word circuit, Scott's fully aware that as important as what you say, is how you say it. On "Getting In The Way", when she opens "Sistah gurrl." one hears the sounds of West Philadelphia's communities. She exhibits a comfort with language, both figurative ("One Is The Magic Number) and colloquial ("Love Rain"), shared only with the greatest rappers. Hearing her delve into boisterous call-and-response episodes with the warm Washington, D.C. crowd, its aching to something from a hip-hop show. Her band segues into classics by A Tribe
Called Quest. On "High Post Brotha" (1 of 11 new studio tracks packaged in this double CD) she doesn't rap, per se, but sounds perfectly natural adjacent the incomparable Common. And if that wasn't enough, she even does a little beat boxing.
Jill Scott is a preacher. The sultry shaman drives the crowd to church on the gospel-fueled "Fatback Taffy". On the aforementioned "High Post Brotha" she offers encouragement to women not realizing their true worth, noting the worthlessness of a wealthy man who doesn't take care of business at home. She issues warning to her little sisters with young minds and precocious bodies on the aptly titled "Thickness". And like all good sermons, these work because the preacher relates with the audience. She doesn't reveal a hint of condescension, mentioning she's "been there herself". The pulpit never seems too far away. For those who find Erykah too moralistic, Alicia too young, Mary too troubled, and Lauryn too.... missing. The good Rev. Jill is there to stand in the gap. Fire and brimstone preaching meets the caring counsel of an older sibling.
Jill Scott is a singer. Sans the lyrics, minus the mission, she'd still be able to get by off the strength of her voice. She bellows. She scats. She hits highs and lows. She's rugged. She's smooth. She does Lady Day and Leontyne. Her mellifluous tones rise to meet production from both the soulful A Touch of Jazz and the drum-and-bass pioneers 4Hero.
Her bag of tricks is deep indeed, and in the end, you have an artist whose next move is impossible to predict, and a question left unanswered...except to say she's a Jill of all trades.