Jill Scott

A True Inspiration: Jill Scott

Jill Scott

The question – Who Is Jill Scott? – has been posed. Take your time: The significance of the answer is considerable. After all, what do you make of a Philadelphia-born woman whose mother, upon placing first eyes on her daughter, envisioned an exclamation point behind her chosen name, thus: Jill! What do you make of a woman who years ago recognized and named her altar ego Ami, without knowing it was I Am spelled backwards? A decisive woman who respects talent but favors soul. What we do know of Jill Scott is that she carries her spine straight; confidence, high; spirit, risen and pure. Simply, Jill Scott-not to be confused with Gil Scott (Heron)-is lifted.

Jill Scott was raised and lives in north Philadelphia, the big city that feels like a town. She remembers her grandmother “taking a bath at five o’clock every morning, and you would hear this real back-porch hum…” From some deep, throaty place, Jill recollects: “Mmmm-hmmm. HmmMMM”-the sound of cross-armed deacons and Mahalia Jackson. “We would gather at the door and listen,” Jill continues. “My mother would cry.”

While Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince rocked Central High School parties and The Roots were street performers, Jill was reading poetry at a local art spot, October Gallery. The crowds were growing and Jill was starting to hear things. “Sounds,” she says. “Sounds in the words. Eventually some parts would be spoken, some sung.”

Roots drummer Amir caught Jill’s performance and told producer Scott Storch. The band invited Jill into the studio one night; she came and wrote in five minutes what would be the lyrics to “You Got Me.” Amir called Jill the next day to say the song would be The Roots’ first single. Sung by Erykah Badu, the track went on to garner The Roots a 1999 Grammy award for Best Rap Performance (Duo or Group).

Since then, Jill Scott has toured with the Canadian cast of Rent. She’s collaborated with The Roots, Eric Benet (on a remix of his song “When You Think Of Me”), Will Smith (“The Rain” from Willennium) and Common (on his album Like Water for Chocolate and the single “8 Minutes to Sunrise” from the Wild, Wild West soundtrack). In conjunction with Eastman Kodak, Jill sent junior high school students nationwide out on a simple, profound mission: Take pictures of what it is to try. (The students were inspired by the lyrics of her song with the same title). ”

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