On this episode of Questlove Supreme, Questlove and Team Supreme have the first part of their two-part interview with Grammy-award-winning poet, actress, singer, and songwriter Jill Scott, who Quest says “gave me my first and only hit.” They talk about her childhood living in North Philadelphia, how hard it is to meet your idols, how much she loves The Wiz, and so much more in this freewheeling conversation. Quest has a couple of stories about encountering Jill at different events, but they officially met at a poetry reading, and he asked her if she wrote songs. “And I lied,” she laughs. “I said yes, which I did not do….had no idea how to write a song.” She “got blazed for, like, hours” with producer and songwriter Scott Storch and handed Quest seven songs. “‘You Got Me’ was number three,” Quest remembers, “and when I heard it, I said to myself, ‘This song’s going to change my life.’”
North Philly wasn’t an easy place to be a child, but Jill says she “had an idyllic concept of the hood.” There were murders and drug dealers, but they “took my mom’s groceries in. They wrote me poetry. They let me….read them Edgar Allan Poe,” she says. “There were neighbors who played the guitar and they’d leave the screen open so you could hear it.” But then, “crack came like a thief in the night and just destroyed everything good….made it really hard. I definitely got shot at, I definitely had to fight a lot.” Thanks to her mom, she realized that she was on a path that would take her to jail, which she didn’t want. So she turned to poetry and theatre, working three jobs, teaching English, doing a part-time internship for free acting classes. Writing the song for Quest was her big break, but not quite like she thought it would be: She sang on the record, but when the track was released, they had replaced her with Erykah Badu. She didn’t know about the change until she heard it on the radio. Quest spends a little time explaining that situation, and Jill admits to being taken aback at first. But then she just focused on how great it was that someone like Erykah Badu was singing her song. “I was like, ‘I’m in!’” she laughs.
The Roots did take her on the road with them to tour, but “no one was nice to me,” she recalls; in fact, they stranded her in Paris and she had to figure out how to get home on her own. “We were trash,” Quest moans, but Jill has no hard feelings. “Everyone has to get a certain amount of hazing,” she says. “You taught me everything. You changed my life. Did I ever tell you thank you? Thank you.” Hear more about Jill Scott’s journey, the first seven words Questlove heard her say that made him “afraid of this woman forever,” and a really important lesson her grandmother taught her, on this episode of Questlove Supreme.
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