Aug. 26, 2000.
One of journalism’s cardinal rules is never begin a story with the date unless … unless … the date itself is significant. Aug. 26, 2000 is that significant to me. That’s the date I asked the now rhetorical question: “Who is Jill Scott?”
On Feb. 25, 2020 at The Fillmore in Minneapolis that question was answered.
On Aug. 26, 2000 I hopped in my friend Carlton’s new red Volkswagen Golf as we headed to the wedding of our great friends, Anthony and Judy Love.
“You hip to Jill Scott?” Carlton quizzed.
“Naw, who’s that?” I replied.
“She’s dope. She’s down with The Roots,” was Carlton’s retort, knowing that would get my interest peeked.
I was a big fan of The Roots. Back then, they weren’t the juggernaut they have now become. Neither was Jill Scott. The Roots were emerging artists just starting to get a national buzz. But to have that Roots “stamp of approval” was enough for me. And, when I heard Carlton say “The Roots,” I immediately thought hip-hop, but then he popped in the CD.
This wasn’t hip-hop at all … this was soul in its rawest, most pure form. This was a new kind of soul. This was neosoul.
It was with that fond memory firmly implanted in my mind that I entered Minneapolis’ freshly minted concert venue, The Fillmore last night. But in case I, or anyone else, forgot “Who is Jill Scott?” we were quickly and wonderfully reminded.
Released in January 2000, “Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1” is now 20-years-old and it has aged like the finest of wines. Listening to Jilly from Philly’s debut album is a treat in itself. Having it sung to you track-by-track with added operatic improvisations and comedic adlibs by the virtuoso herself is almost indescribable. But allow me to offer this feeble attempt.
With the accompaniment of an all-male band and background singers … one diva on stage was more than enough … Jill Scott reminded the packed house not only “Who is Jill Scott,” but she reminded us why we give a damn in the first place.
I’m not sure what resonates more with the singer’s fans, her voice or her spirit. Most likely it’s a combination of the two. With Jill, there’s a connectedness … a familiarity. There’s the duality we love. It’s her sending out blessings and love to her fellow queens and in the same exact sentence saying a certain type woman (a name I will refrain from using), “Be doing too much and not enough at the same damn time.”
It’s her singing the gritty and humorous lyrics of “Gettin’ in the Way” and transitioning into “He Loves Me” and for a moment turning The Fillmore into an opera house, singing a beautifully crafted Spanish interlude akin to one in “La Vida Breve” then taking us to D.C. with the hard-driving go-go percussions behind “It’s Love.” It’s her (tactfully, and in song) admonishing everyone recording the performance with their cell phones and – without missing a beat – breaking into the now prophetic warning song, “Watching Me.”
I once joked Frankie Beverly has the easiest job in music because he never has to sing in concert because the audience does it for him. Well, Jill could have the second easiest job, but she’s not ready to retire her vocals just yet. So, while the audience took over on “The Way,” Jilly from Philly did what a Philly woman does – she took over. No one voice can compete. On Feb. 25 at The Fillmore, not even a thousand voices could compete.
“Who is Jill Scott?”
The answer is within the question. Jill Scott has transitioned being a noun; she’s a verb. She is action. She is an occurrence. She is the main part of the sentence.
For those who need it spelled out, her name is “J-I-LL-S-C-O-T-Tee. Jill Scott reperesentin’ North Philly y’all.”