Jill Scott - Hidden Beach Presents the Original Jill Scott From the Vault, Vol. 1 (2011)

Jill Scott

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Contrary to what fans, publicists and the artists themselves may tell you, divas aren’t made----they’re born.  And while their degree of talent (or even the existence of said ‘talent’) might be questionable, the traits that distinguish them from the pack are not ambition, audaciousness, a knack for self-promotion and a passion for their purpose that compels anyone in their path to see them and hear them (usually at center-stage). The most important quality---consistency---is what sets them apart among those who twist with the trends, a truth demonstrated with artful aplomb in Jill Scott’s new compilation, Hidden Beach Presents the Original Jill Scott From the Vault, Vol.1.

Contrary to what fans, publicists and the artists themselves may tell you, divas aren’t made----they’re born.  And while their degree of talent (or even the existence of said ‘talent’) might be questionable, the traits that distinguish them from the pack are not ambition, audaciousness, a knack for self-promotion and a passion for their purpose that compels anyone in their path to see them and hear them (usually at center-stage). The most important quality---consistency---is what sets them apart among those who twist with the trends, a truth demonstrated with artful aplomb in Jill Scott’s new compilation, Hidden Beach Presents the Original Jill Scott From the Vault, Vol.1.

For those who’ve just recently jumped aboard the Jilly From Philly Express via her HBO/Lifetime/Tyler Perry film roles and are working backwards, the fact that she’s just as expressive and emotional in music as she appears on-screen shouldn’t be too surprising. What may be unexpected, however, is the eloquence, assertiveness and the emotionally transparent lyricism that, even in her formative years, set her apart from fellow sistren. The top-notch production (from the likes of Dre & Vidal, Carvin & Ivan, Jazzy Jeff, etc.) didn’t hurt, true enough, but it’s Ms. Scott’s innate sass and self-possession that appealed to folks from the very beginning and poised her for  superstardom. The thirteen tracks here are practically sequenced along the timeline of her personal growth and artistic actualization from CD to CD. “I Don’t Know (Gotta Have You)” is a robust itemization of lust and intrigue that could easily function as a precursor to “A Long Walk” (“My tongue was busy tying/well maybe um, possibly um, get together for dinner, I make a mean Shepards’s pie”), followed by the throbbing, delicately-delivered “Wondering Why? (You Don’t Talk to Me),” where her tone is sugary-sweet and pensive, but the message is straight-forward and sharp: “Don’t get why you’re mad at me, hope this isn’t jealousy/No need for that bull****, we’re both strong.”

Other tracks demonstrate that Jill’s phrasing and ability to spin a narrative remains unparalleled: her remake of Bill Withers’ classic “Lovely Day,” for example, could’ve been a by-the-numbers retread, but she tumbles the tempo a bit, rolls it around in her lower register and transforms it into a sunny soliloquy all its own. “Wake Up Baby,” steeped in a bluesy, 1970s-era soul track, combines youthful yearnings and mother-wit to drop knowledge about differentiating men from boys: “If he honks outside, if he waits in his car/Oh baby baby baby, he ain’t seeing you like the jewel, like the flower you are.”

Just like every other woman who is growing into self, From the Vault…. proves that Ms. Scott always wore her heart and insecurities on her sleeve. “Running Away” is one of the most compelling numbers, with its breezy keys and percussion belying the fact that she almost drowned in that De Nial River: “And food and shoes couldn’t curve my appetite/I couldn’t think and I couldn’t pray, that’s what really done it to me, I was running.” “Coming To Light (Everything)” unfurls like a slow sunrise, putting her flaws on display and burning her with its unblinking focus, and the same introspection appears in “The Light,” a song appearing twice and as an original and bonus mix that posits Jill as offering, and then accepting, sage advice (the first version has a heavier hip-hop base). Verses like “So let me stop all this trippin’, forgin’ to my own funky fantastic dimension/Let me do what a sister like me do and put some funk in the kitchen” definitely showcase the prowess with prose that put Ms. Scott on fame’s  fast track in the first place. “And I Heard…Do You Understand?,” a hybrid of soul and sanctity, closes the Vault with a live taste of Jilly’s inimitable coolness and charisma that is the very definition of a full-on, don’t hate, born-with-it DIVA.

Aside from the occasionally overly-saccharine moments (“Love to Love,” “Holding On”), From The Vault is proof positive that Ms. Scott’s abilities, even in their less-polished state, were authentic and undeniable. Simply put, Jill didn’t come to the game stuntin’: she stunted on the game because, well….that’s what real divas do. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles


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