Jill Scott (born April 4, 1972) is a Grammy-winning American poet, actress, and singer-songwriter. Since 1999, Scott has made a reputation for being a classic, thought provoking artist gained by her 2000 multi-platinum selling, debut, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1. Their followups Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2 released in 2004, and The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3 released in 2007 both achieved gold status. She made her cinematic debut in the films Hounddog and Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? in 2007. She also appeared as the lead role in the HBO series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
Scott grew up an only child in a North Philadelphia neighborhood, raised by her mother, Joyce Scott, and her grandmother. She indicated in an interview with Jet Magazine that she had a happy childhood and was “very much a loved child”. Scott was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls. After graduating, she attended Temple University while simultaneously working two jobs. She studied secondary education for three years and had planned to become a high school English teacher, but after spending time as a teacher’s aide, disillusionment with the teaching profession set in causing her to drop out of school.
Prior to breaking through the music industry, Scott worked at a variety of jobs, including a number of retail positions and stints at a construction site and an ice cream parlor. She remains close to her mother and grandmother who is nicknamed Blue Babe. Scott has resided in Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey and currently resides in California.
2000-2009: Words and Sounds albums
Jill Scott began her performing career as a spoken word artist, appearing at live poetry readings to perform her work. She was eventually discovered by Amir “?uestlove” Thompson of The Roots. ?uestlove invited her to join the band in the studio. The collaboration resulted in a co-writing credit for Scott on the song, “You Got Me.” In 2000, Erykah Badu and The Roots won a Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group for “You Got Me”, and Scott debuted as an artist during a Roots live show, singing as original artist/singer of the song. Subsequently, Scott collaborated with Eric Benet, Will Smith, and Common, and broadened her performing experience by touring Canada in a production of the Broadway musical Rent.
Scott was the first artist signed to Steve McKeever’s ‘Hidden Beach Recordings’ label. Her debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 was released in 2000. She experienced some notice and chart success with the single “A Long Walk”, eventually earning a Grammy nomination in early 2003 for Best Female Vocal Performance. Scott lost that award, but won a 2005 Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative R&B Performance for “Cross My Mind.” The live album, Experience: Jill Scott 826+, was released November 2001. Scott’s second full-length album, Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2, followed in 2004.
Scott continues to write poetry; a compilation volume of her poems, The Moments, The Minutes, The Hours, was published and released by St. Martin’s Press in April 2005. In early 2007, Scott was featured on the George Benson & Al Jarreau collaboration “God Bless The Child“, which earned Scott her second Grammy award, Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, at the 2007 Grammy Awards ceremony. Scott shared the win with Benson & Jarreau. In 2006, Scott was prominently featured on hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco‘s single “Daydreaming,” which won a 2008 Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance and also appeared on a new Scott collection called Collaborations on January 30, 2007.
The Collaborations collection served as “an appetizer” for her next studio album, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3 released September 25, 2007. A clip of the title track was released on a bonus disc from Hidden Beach Records and included with Collaborations. The lead single “Hate on Me”, gained airplay in May 2007 with a video released in mid-July. In advance of the album’s release, Hidden Beach released a 17-minute album sampler through their forums. Interspersed between the dozen songs previewed on the sampler was a personal explanation from Jill for the inspiration behind some of her songs.
In 2008, Scott released her second live album, Live In Paris+, which consists of 8 songs recorded during her set list of the “Big Beautiful Tour” in Europe. The bonus DVD contains the same concert, plus some live cuts from The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3. In the same year, “Whenever You’re Around”, a single from The Real Thing which features George Duke, was a moderate hit on urban radio.
2010-present: Hidden Beach lawsuit, The Light of the Sun, and Summer Block Party
Early in 2010, Scott was sued by Hidden Beach Records for leaving halfway through her six album contract and owing millions of dollars in damages. The label’s founder, Steve McKeever, claimed that he helped launch Scott’s career and nurtured her into a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, but was unceremoniously dumped in October after a 10-plus relationship. Scott, however, countersued that claim.
To reimburse the damages, Hidden Beach planned to release several compilation albums consisting of previously unreleased material by Scott. The first album in this series was The Original Jill Scott from the Vault, Vol. 1. Previously titled Just Before Dawn, the album was asked to be paused by Scott so that fans would not get confused with the new material she was releasing entitled The Light of the Sun being released under a distribution deal by Scott and Warner Brothers signed in early 2011. The deal gives Scott direct control over her marketing and promotions and releases her music under her imprint of Blues Babe Records. She also signed a multi-tour deal with Live Nation to expand her concert touring.
The Light of the Sun officially began production in 2010. Scott gave fans a preview of the music on her 18 city venue, co-headlining tour with R&B singer Maxwell, Maxwell & Jill Scott: The Tour. After tour, Scott began studio sessions with the album’s executive producer, JR Hutson. Recording sessions took place in several locations including 9th Street Studios, Studio 609, Fever Recording Studios in North Hollywood, California, Threshold Sound & Vision in Santa Monica, California, and The Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Boom Boom Room in Burbank, California, and The Village Studios in West Los Angeles, California. It features collaborations from Anthony Hamilton, Eve, Doug E Fresh, and Paul Wall. The album was released for pre-order days before it was officially released on June 21, 2011. It debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 chart, with 135,000 copies sold in its first week, becoming her first #1 debut on the chart.
The album was preceded by the promo single, Shame which was released on Scott’s SoundCloud account in April of 2012. The single features the rapper Eve and R&B trio The A-Group. The video was released on Essence.com on April 13. The album’s official debut single was So in Love featuring Anthony Hamilton. It was released in April and debuted at #43 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, Scott’s highest debut on that chart. It peaked at #10, and tied a record with Maxwell’s Fortunate for spending 14 weeks at #1 on the Urban Adult Contemporary Chart.
Scott promoted the album with several tactics including The Light of the Sundays, several online Essence interviews, and releasing the album as an iTunes LP, giving fans exclusive photos and videos. Scott also embarked on her Summer Block Party tour sponsored by Budweiser’s Superfest. The tour was a hit, selling out venues throughout the country with opening acts Anthony Hamilton and legendary group Mint Condition. It also featured Doug E Fresh as the host and DJ Jazzy Jeff as the DJ. The album’s second official single, So Gone (What My Mind Says) featuring Paul Wall was released in August 2011, and the video premiered on September 13 on E! Online. It has peaked at #28 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Scott also released a video for the song Hear My Call. The project gained Scott four NAACP Image Awards including Outstanding Female Artist, Outstanding Music Video (“Hear My Call”), Outstanding Song (“So in Love”), and Outstanding Album (The Light of the Sun).
Other appearances and song-writing
Her live performance in 2004 with members of The Roots, which also includes a joint performance with Erykah Badu, is featured in Dave Chappelle’s 2006 concert film, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. UK dance duo Goldtrix covered Scott’s song “It’s Love”, re-naming it “It’s Love (Trippin’)” with singer Andrea Brown taking over vocal duties. The song became a top ten hit in the UK, peaking at number six. Jill is also featured on a Lupe Fiasco song named “Daydreaming””It’s Love (Trippin’)” was also covered by South West Beats (Featuring Claudia Patrice) in 2008. The song “Golden” is featured in a R&B themed radio station in the Rockstar Games video game Grand Theft Auto IV. She recently appeared on Pharoahe Monch’s 2011 release W.A.R. (We Are Renegades). Also Jill is one of the featured artists in Kirk Franklin’s video “I Smile” released in 2011.
Scott is a vocalist who infused jazz, R&B, spoken word, and hip hop among other genres to create a distinct style that many refer to as neo soul. Her vocal capabilities are so rich that a reviewer on Pop Matter, referring to Scott’s vocal ability (1st soprano), stated ‘Scott draws on her upper register, recalling the artistry of the late “songbird” Minnie Riperton and Deniece Williams‘. The same reviewer in another article stated, ‘The song evokes the artistry of Minnie Riperton as Scott sings in the upper register that makes its only appearances on Who is Jill Scott? on the teasing “I Think It’s Better” and “Show Me.” Scott has “a very rare facility to hit notes in the sixth octave as displayed on songs such as ‘Gimme’ where she hits a D6 with full vibrato, and on ‘Spring Summer Feeling’ where she hits a C7 in the background”.
Film and television
On the advice of her good friend, director Ozzie Jones, she began pursuing a career in acting in 2000. She joined a fellowship at a theater company in Philadelphia. For two years, she took small, menial jobs in exchange for acting lessons.
In 2004, Scott expanded her resume by appearing in several episodes of season four of UPN’s Girlfriends, playing Donna, a love interest to main character, William Dent (Reggie Hayes). She also appeared in the Showtime movie Cavedwellers, starring Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick.
In 2008, Scott appeared as Precious Ramotswe in Anthony Minghella‘s film adaption of Alexander McCall Smith‘s series of books The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency playing a detective. Scott then filmed additional episodes for the series in Botswana in late 2008, co-funded by the BBC and HBO that were broadcast as a seven-part series on BBC1 in March 2009; and on HBO, which debuted March 29, 2009. BBC and HBO are contemplating whether to produce a second round of episodes of the series.
In 2010 she voiced Storm of the X-Men on the BET series Black Panther.
On March 24, 2010, Scott guest-starred in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She reprised her role as Sheila in Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010). The movie was shot in August 2009 and received an April 2, 2010 release.
In 2010, Scott starred in the Lifetime Movie, “Sins of the Mother”, as Nona, an alcoholic mother confronted by her estranged daughter who she neglected. At the 42nd NAACP Image Awards, Jill Scott was awarded Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for her role in “Sins of the Mother”.
Scott and longtime boyfriend Lyzel Williams, a graphic artist and DJ, married in 2001 in a private Hawaiian ceremony during a vacation. The couple dated for seven years before they wed. Scott wrote and recorded the song “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)” about Williams. After six years of marriage, Scott and Williams divorced in 2007.
On June 20, 2008, at a concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Scott shared a long on-stage kiss with her drummer, Lil’ John Roberts; the couple then told the audience that they were engaged. They expected their first child on April 25, 2009 but the baby boy, Jett Hamilton Roberts, arrived five days earlier. On June 23, 2009, Scott announced that she and Roberts had broken up, with Scott breaking the news to Essence. Despite the break-up, Scott hopes for both parents to have an active part in their child’s upbringing, stating that “We definitely love our son and we are co-parenting and working on being friends. It is what it is. I have a lot of support, so I want for nothing as far as that’s concerned.”
Charity work and advocacy
Scott has established the Blues Babe Foundation, a program founded to help young minority students pay for university expenses. The Blues Babe Foundation offers financial assistance to students between the ages of sixteen to twenty-one, and targets students residing in Philadelphia, Camden, and the greater Delaware Valley. Scott donated USD$100,000 to help start the foundation. The foundation was named after Scott’s grandmother, known as “Blue Babe”. On the foundation’s website, it defines its mission statement as one where it “seeks to provide financial support and mentoring for those students who have shown the aptitude and commitment to their education, but whose families may not have the resources to ensure completion of their undergraduate degrees”.
In Spring 2003, the Blues Babe Foundation made a donation of more than $60,000 to the graduating class of the Creative Arts School in Camden, New Jersey. Any student who maintained a 3.2 GPA received a yearly stipend for the next three years that was put toward his or her college education.
At the Essence Music Festival in July 2006, Scott spoke out about how women of color are portrayed in the lyrics of rap songs, and in rap music videos. Scott criticized the content for being “dirty, inappropriate, inadequate, unhealthy, and polluted” and urged the listening audience to “demand more”.
Scott was a columnist in the April issue of Essence magazine and she expressed her point of view about Black men who marry Caucasian women. In the column Scott says “We reflect on this awful past and recall that if a Black man even looked at a White woman, he would have been lynched, beaten, jailed or shot to death. These harsh truths lead to what we really feel when we see a seemingly together brother with a Caucasian woman and their children. That feeling is betrayed.” The column has sparked controversy on the internet.