With the success of Jill Scott’s recent album, The Real Thing, Words and Sounds Vol. 3, and her concert tour now at an end, I thought it was a good time to revisit her book of poetry. The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours gives readers a glimpse of the R&B singer as she was at the beginning of her artistic career.
Before her work with the band The Roots, Jill Scott was a spoken word artist, performing her work live at poetry readings. Of course, her beautiful voice and her experience in a Canadian production of Rent didn’t hurt when she was discovered by Amir Thompson of The Roots, who invited Scott to collaborate with the band. She contributed to the writing of the band’s song “You Got Me,” which won a Grammy in 2000.
I am a long-time fan of Scott’s music and a new devotee of her poetry. What has always affected me most about her music is the raw honesty of her lyrics. Listening to a Jill Scott song, you feel as though she’s in the room speaking to you as she would a close friend. Her poetry has the same unembellished honesty. The cadence of her poetry has a distinct lilt, carrying one word right into the next, like natural speech. Scott speaks about the issues that are so crucial to experiencing life fully – relationships, spirituality, self-identity – and brings to them a new and very personal outlook. In Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman argues that the goal of the poet is to see life and humanity as they truly are and to convey those insights honestly, without sentimentality or disingenuous decoration. Scott certainly accomplishes that.
For example, she begins a poem discussing something as seemingly banal as her experience with being potty trained and, with the concluding line, “I don’t even think of you now,” abruptly turns the poem into a sharp and biting portrayal of her relationship with the parent in question.
Jill Scott appeared on last year’s premier episode of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry on HBO. I highly recommend checking it out on You Tube:
It’s emotionally raw and somewhere between an a cappella performance and spoken word. Clearly, Jill Scott is as much a poet as she is a singer.