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Scott's second studio CD compelling

July 27, 2005 - When singer/songwriter Jill Scott saw her 2000 debut CD, "Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1," soar past 2 million in sales, success brought critical re-spect for her jazzy soul sound and her un-commonly thoughtful and honest lyrics.

She quickly moved to the forefront of a neo-soul movement that now includes the likes of Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone and India.Arie. Success also brought something else Scott had never planned on — stardom.

"When the first album came out, it was very daunting. My life changed," Scott re-called in a recent telephone interview. "My intention was to be an artist. That's all I really was and that's all I really am. I be-came a celebrity, and I didn't really think about the byproduct of artistry.

"I didn't understand it because I come from Philadelphia, and in the city everybody is somebody," she said. "People will put you in your place quick in Philadel-phia. That's what I love about it. You're not allowed to have a big head ... But all of sudden there were just folks following me into the bathroom stall in the airport. That's weird."

Scott, who followed her debut in 2001 with a live CD, "Experience: Jill Scott 826+" before stepping out of the public eye, said, in fact, that she seriously debated whether the rewards of her career justified the hassles that came with fame.

"I felt, quite frankly, is it worth it?" Scott said. "I took off my time and I realized that I don't really have a choice. It's either create or perish."

So Scott now is back with a second studio CD, "Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2," and if anything, it's an even richer, more mature and more challenging work than her much-lauded debut.

The music itself is compelling, as Scott once again fashions a sound that easily combines and moves between the worlds of classic soul, hip-hop, pop and jazz.

Highlights include the hip-hop flavored anthem "Golden," the intimately soulful "Cross My Mind" and the funky jazz-spiced "Bedda at Home."

But it's what Scott has to say lyrically that takes "Beautifully Human" to another level. The album paints a portrait of a confident, strong woman who is coming to understand the complex emotions that come with adulthood, marriage and being a woman.

In "Golden," she sings of self-empowerment and embracing inner freedom and happiness, yet in "The Fact Is," she notes that while she is totally self-sufficient, she still needs the man in her life to feel complete.

She heads into the thorny territory of lust and fidelity on "Cross My Mind," where she passionately resurrects memories of a former boyfriend, and on "Bedda at Home," where she lets herself think a few heated thoughts about a stranger before realizing she has someone better at home.

Scott's lyrics obviously deal more in real-life issues than those of the average pop diva or hip-hop star. And as Scott, 32, re-vealed in this interview, she spent a good deal of time leading up to "Beautifully Hu-man" researching and considering issues involving the roles of women and men in today's world, the importance of marriage and romantic relationships and the value of friends and family.

"I look around today and I see what's happening," Scott said, settling into an ex-tended discourse on life as she sees it. "I see how people talk about marriage and how women, there's a whole feminist thing. I dig all that, but at the same time I think we've got it backwards. I do think that absolutely women deserve equal pay for equal work. I do believe that women can do anything. At the same time I do feel that men are very necessary, the brothers, the uncles and the grandpas and the neighbors, they're very necessary.

"I've spent my two years, I spent a lot of time talking to my elders and basically just sitting around and interviewing, asking questions, how does your marriage last for 50 years? How do you love each other the way that you do?" said Scott, who married her longtime boyfriend Lyzel Williams three years ago. "I learned that the big part of it is patience. A big part of it is understanding that within the household there's a king and a queen. He is not higher than she and she is not higher than he, but the reality of it is that a love relationship between a man and a woman is kind of like a flower.

"She is the blossom whose stem, you must always be looking up at her. This means that as a woman, there is a certain amount of dignity and respect that you must always carry if you want him to always look up to you. That's very important, I think, to men as well. So there were a lot of lessons I learned about being a wo-man. This is really what this album is,'' Scott added.

Jill Scott is featured as part of the Sugar Water Festival, which stops at the UMB Bank Pavilion Sunday, July 31. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show, which also features Ery-kah Badu, Queen Latifah and Floetry, cost $75, $60 and $55 for reserved seating and $21 for lawn seating.

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