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By Kalamu ya Salaam of Kalamu.com


Saturday/Sunday, April 26-27, 2008.



Jill Scott is arguably the deepest of the neo-soul diva. Yeah, I know, what about Erykah? Well, Ms. Badu is undoubtedly way out there -way, way out. But her stuff is not quite as deep as Ms. Scott’s, at least not what Badu has commercially recorded.


Badu’s new jam is ok, indeed that video for the “Honey” single is conceptually stellar, but over all, Badu’s new studio stuff is more like jelly; still sweet and smooth to spread but a little shakey.


Indeed, truth be told, I am not all that crazy about Jill’s new studio work, I think it’s more deep on the cartharsis (breaking-up drama) and lighter on the art of the music, but see this live jam from Jill, it’s rock solid. Bottom of the ocean, whale-shit deep.


Why I'm I saying this? Well, because Jill Scott has done a live show, full of hits, each of them recognizable in the basic of their melodies, but she is reaching for much more than a simple recreation of what she has already recorded.


For one thing, this set is much more jazz-oriented. Hear especially that use of Monk’s “Round Midnight” as a motif in this swinging version of “Golden.” The Jill Scott Live In Paris set has both a DVD and a CD in the package. Most of the DVD was recorded in Paris but four bonus tracks were recorded at the House of Blues, Los Angeles. There’s also a short video documentary. Just in terms of the amount of good music this is a great deal.


For another thing, Jill is in great voice, and that joy in itself is enough to say, well, alright, gotta get it. That is, if you’re into contemporary R&B that’s real and not some Memorex, trying to sound like the fabled 1970s, half-exciting nostalgia trip.


The music never would have advanced in the seventies if all the artists from then had spent most of their time recording shit from the fifties and the sixties, which is not to say we should abandon our history. 


Fanon told us: "Each generation. You got to find your own groove and do it. The newness of anything/everything is grounded in the realities of its time even as it looks forward to what’s coming."


The most truly futuristic shit is that which is down with the advanced edge of what’s happening right now! Right now—it’s always about the present, always about, even though it may be unknown to us or hidden from us, always about the hippest of what is. There is always some hip, hip things happening (and, no doubt, some reprehensible stuff too) that we need to engage.


Critique and obliterate backwardsnesses, uphold the forward. Step into tomorrow, but the only way to get to tomorrow is by being in touch with what’s happening now. If you ain’t up on today, you can’t be down with tomorrow. With this set, Jill Scott proves she knows what time it is.


In addition to the aforementioned "Golden," which is "golden’ - bright shinning as a morning star, and especially stunning in how it modulates through different stylistic emphasizes - we also have "The Fact Is," "Rasool" and "He Loves Me."


Initially, I was going with this infectiously swinging version of "Golden" but instead let’s pick up on Jill’s right on, socially conscious, elegy "Rasool." Taken as a whole, nobody else I’m aware of has produced a recording so varied, so serious, so swinging, so funky, so… so "no-comparisons-whatsoever" as is Jill Scott.


Every time I put this album on, one of the random thoughts that reoccurs is: damn, this is better than I remember it being. And that says a lot about a recording when, even ten or twelve listenings later, it continues to surprise you. You continue to hear a nuance that brings a smile, a wrinkle you missed on the preceding go-rounds.


Do yourself a huge favor, wake up, don’t sleep on getting this, because you looked at the track list and said, "I already got most of that". Word: Until you get to this, you ain’t really got it!


His name was Rasool
Carmel completed boy from the 22
Rough on the outside
But on the inside he was cool
Rasool was a king
But also a fool
Back on the block again with the same crew
Tariq from the west side
Little John form the avenue
Always seen um bout a quarter to two
Shaking hands with everybody
But at the same time sharing the blues
And oh how he passed it on
Shaking hands till what was in his pockets was gone
He'd be outside in the cold with his bubble goose on
But inside
I knew he wasn't warm
Around 10:30 on that dreary night
His bowaz said they were hungry they were hungry
Wanted to get a bite
But they didn't send a runner
Rasool knew it wasn't right
But he stayed anyway to get the chain he liked
And oh how the shots rang in the streets
Hitting everybody in the surrounding vicinity
Children of the children
One young father to be
And Rasool lay dead in my north Philly Street
At fifteen years old
It was the first death I'd seen
But the game ain't designed for no kind of winning
And oh this is a friend of Rasool
Telling you to think about what you do and who you call your crew
The very choices you make
May make a Rasool out of you
Now you don't want that do you?


Kalamu ya Salaam is a New Orleans-based writer and filmmaker. He is also the founder of Nommo Literary Society - a Black writers workshop.


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