Jill Scott speaks ‘Volumes’ About Ghetto Upbringing

Meredith Kammerer

As lame as rhetorical questions may sound, Jill Scott ponders the ultimate quest for self-understanding in “Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Volume 1” Between artful spoken word and ambient beats, this latest release is an intelligent step away from the recent trend in cookie-cutter rap, which usually involves gangstas, cash and ho’s.

Scott’s quietly frank lyrics are the antithesis of many abrasive hip-hop/r&b artists such as Little Kim and Queen Latifah. Her growl is not loud, it is calm and even. From the initial track, “Do You Remember” to “Try” (“Love Rain Head Nod” is a hidden track), Scott maintains a collected vocal presence. Her emotions are inflicted not in the intonations of her voice, but rather by the trance-like background throughout the album. Her music mixes the simplistic autobiographical lyrics of Erykah Badu, with a crowded city background.

Many of the songs on “Who is Jill Scott?” evoke images of smoky basement parties and the feeling of hot, sticky skin. The “tappin’ that ass” mantra of many popular female hip-hop artists is replaced by the specific memories of “85 degrees and cumulous clouds” which are formed into a background for spring love. How appropriate for this season.

Scott’s lyrics on this album focus on both the letdowns and the triumphs of attraction. Most songs roll from bass-heavy beats to beating-heart backdrops.

The shining star on this album has to be her single “Gettin’ In the Way.” Her jazzy nature shines through and this song just sticks. It’s not about the “bling bling” or who is “hanging out the side of his best friends’ ride.” “Gettin’ in the Way” doesn’t use the trendy sampling that is so overplayed.

Scott cites hip-hop, rap and jazz as her influences. It is the latter that makes this album so wonderful. Her mellow vocals make the lyrics much more intriguing. The rap notions of post-coital hunger and bumping into someone who has been with your significant other are intriguing themes on the track “Exclusively.”

Scott flips a new spin and makes gettin’ it on as palatable as Barry White, not overplayed and nasty (albeit, fabulously nasty) like Foxy Brown. She doesn’t whip out her “gat” and smoke the girl who “knows” her man (in the biblical sense).

Instead, she stops the song and the story, leaving a statement far more powerful than violence.

Scott recognizes that she comes from the ghetto. The poignant memories of double dutch, block parties, ass-whoopins and Kool-aid makes this album rich and chock-full of sensual images that anyone can nod to (who doesn’t have fond memories of Kool-aid?).

“Who is Jill Scott?” is definitely mood music for the anti-Luther Vandross crowd. Her intelligent lyric stylings are a breath of fresh air and the coupling with such a rap heavyweight as Mos Def makes this album a whiff of originality.