Jill Scott steps onto the stage of an intimate New York-city nightclub. Dressed in a black lace mini and sky-high heels, she oozes grown-woman sex appeal. She greets the audience - an eclectic crowd of men, women, all races - with a sultry, "You doin' alright?" But before she's even made it half-way through her first song, "Quick," a percussive cut from her forthcoming album, LIGHT OF THE SUN, the crowd has erupted in applause.
"Sing!" one girl calls out. Scott throws the woman a sly smile and gives the audience some more: " i Thought we had magic, I thought that we were special but it's over, huh?" she intones, "Gave me ya sun, can't believe it's over. So quick." The song, a riff on her relationship with her child's father, is quintessential Scott: searingly honest and tinged with humor.
"This music came about in a very organic way," says Scott reflecting on the free-style jam sessions that resulted in the creation of The LIGHT OF THE SUN, which drops June 2011. "I've enjoyed the recording process more that I ever have before."
The LIGHT OF THE SUN, which features appearances by Paul Wall, Doug E. Fresh, and Eve, traverses the rocky terrain of love, longing and loss. The first single, "So in Love," is a duet with Anthony Hamilton. When Scott first heard the record, a soul-filled melody that evokes the legendary pairing of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, she was moved to tears.
"My first thought is that the song is just beautifully done," she recalls. "But I also felt like this is something that people are going to appreciate for years to come. It's a song folks will play at their weddings and family reunions. And Anthony, whew!He's a legend in the making. Voices like that don't come along every day."
THE LIGHT OF THE SUN's second single, "Shame," is a rousing anthem of affirmation, featuring Philly-native Eve, and a trio of juicy back-up singers, The A Group. "I can stand on my own," Scott sings, "I'm magnificent. I'm a queen on a thrown, I'm magnificent." Then the horns come in and there's nothing to do but dance.
Scott says the song was written during a late-night session listening to old-school beats. "We were in the studio and [executive producer] J.R. Hutson was playing classic hip hop tracks off youtube, the kind of stuff I really love, and I was singing and rhyming. Then he played Special Ed's "I'm the Magnificent." When I heard it, I was like, I can't walk away from this!"
"Shame's" lyrics were inspired by a predicament Scott found her self in: dating a man she really liked who was intimidated by her successes. "It's a challenge being a loving woman of some means and trying to date," she says. "some men feel shameful about not accomplishing the things they think they should have. "I think I'm interesting and if I'm interested... what's the problem?' Speaking with other women has made me realize how many of us are in this same position. The ladies are hustling and making things happen. It's a shame for a man not to date a woman because he feels he hasn't done enough. Do more, dammit or accept yourself. Be confident in where you are. I love romance and most of the time, it doesn't cost a red cent." I still love long walks". Amen.
THE LIGHT OF THE SUN also includes tracks that speak directly to the very real single-woman dilemma-when to become sexually intimate and with whom. "On this record, I do speak freely about the desires of the flesh," Scott says. "But I also talk about making myself and my gentleman friend wait for physical intimacy. At this point in my life I'm taking my time despite my body saying, 'girl, you work hard. You deserve life's pleasures.' I do but I'm giving myself a chance to really get to know the man I'm dating and myself. It can be a huge challenge but I'm valuing myself, my time and my body. I dont want to make the same mistakes again. This process inspired the very sexy "Making you Wait" along with the desire to rekindle the coercion, seduction and beguiling of stripping. Yes, stripping.
In the super real song "So Gone aka (Diamond-Chip Dick and What My Mind Says)," which features Southern rapper Paul Wall, she is torn about letting the ex aka the Maintenance Man, hypnotize her yet again with his sexual prowess.
"I call it being dickmatized," Scott says with a laugh. "A lot of women get caught up. Trust I get it because we're out there working and making our dreams come true, and we often have a deep need for affection, sometimes simply to get the stress off! I've felt dickmatized. It's a hard place to be. Mind over matter type situation".
Scott, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, and began her career as a spoken word artist, is one of those rare talents who seems to excel at every artistic endeavor she pursues. Her debut album, the double platinum "Who is Jill Scott: Words and Sounds Vol 1," was released in 2000, since then she's gone on to produce a string of well-praised live and studio recordings. Scott has taken home three Grammy Awards, and established herself as a critically acclaimed actress. In 2008, she stared in HBO's "The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." Scott is the 1st African American woman starring as the lead on HBO. The series was such a hit in Botswana, where it was filmed, that the country issued postage stamps adorned with Scott's likeness. In the past three years, Scott has revisited her role as the beleaguered wife, Sheila, in Tyler Perry's widely-successful "Why Did I Get Married Too" and starred as an alcoholic single mother trying to reconnect with her child in Lifetime's "The Sins of the Mother"- The 2nd highest rated show in the history of Lifetime.
Scott also pays it forward. In 9th year, she established Blues Babes, a Philadelphia-based philanthropic foundation that assists financially struggling but motivated students. There is also the free Camp Jill Scott that takes kids out of the concrete and surrounds them with nature. "It makes me really happy when I see kids that are from Philly having an opportunity to do more, see, think and dream more," she says. "Because those things matter immensely."
Scott's success as a singer, songwriter, actress and poet has placed her in the rarefied world of celebrity, but Scott's gift lies in sharing stories that are heartfelt and true. In an album filled with personal revelation, one of the most intimate tracks is the haunting "Hear My Call," in which she cries out to God to help heal her broken heart. "I was pregnant when my son's father and I separated," recalls Scott. "And I don't know if I've ever been that sad in my life. I'd always believe in love; I grew up watching my grandmother and grandfather kissing passionately in the kitchen, with no teeth! But after my relationship fell apart, I began thinking negative things about love and I was scared. "Hear My Call" was written out of those feelings."
The song, produced by J.R. Hutson, was recorded in one take. Hutson remembers the evening: "I was sitting at the piano playing some chord progressions when Jill came to the studio. She put her bag down, hummed the melody a few times, said 'let's record,' and that was it. She sang the whole song straight down. There are very few artists of our generation who can do that. She is an extraordinary talent."
"You can piece a song together bit by bit," explains Scott. "And that's absolutely fine. But for me, when I record all the way down, I feel like the truth is there. I wanted this song to be so honest that it hurt". Art should be genuine.
So far, genuine is what Jill Scott does best.