Ever since Jill Scott hit the scene this year with her debut album, Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol. I (Hidden Beach/Epic), black people have been treating her as if she were R&B's saving grace. Listening parties for her album have been the rage at many black hangouts. Some of the more sophisticated (read: non-chitlin-serving) restaurants play the record like it's the only decent R&B disc out there. (Hell, it just may be.) Radio stations have given away copies of Jill Scott as if it were a map to the Promised Land. ("Play this album, and you'll find freedom!")

Perhaps black folks simply realize Scott's sound is a precious thing that must be shared with others. It's difficult, after all, to be selfish with something so replenishing. It looks like this North Philadelphia poet and performer can't help but be a savior to the brothas and sistas in need of aesthetic healing. She co-wrote the song "You Got Me" for the Roots, which later won the group a Grammy. Her credentials as a singer-songwriter landed her a deal with the Michael Jordan-funded Hidden Beach label, which has got to be reaping mad loot from the success of her album, thanks in part to her first single, the combative but cool "Gettin' In The Way."

People looking to start something say that Scott, with her quirky lyricism and delicate delivery, manages to out-Badu Erykah Badu. But both parties shouldn't waste their breath with this sort of Whitney-versus-Mariah bullshit. As Scott herself recently told Rolling Stone: "There's enough room for all us sistas on the charts." Besides, even Scott knows she can't beat Badu when the latter's at the top of her game. "Gettin In The Way" may be full of soulful feminine swagger ("Queens shouldn't swing / If you know what I mean / But I'm 'bout to take my earrings off / Get me some Vaseline"), but it still doesn't hold a candle to Badu's 1997 single, "Tyrone," arguably the most understated R&B single of the last decade. It's in Badu's song that you find a girl truly handling her business -- without the need for Vaseline.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey