Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol. 1 Just Turned 20. Let's Talk About the Go-Go Jam, 'It's Love'

Illustration for article titled Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol. 1 Just Turned 20. Let's Talk About the Go-Go Jam, 'It's Love'
Photo: Aaron J. Thornton (Getty Images)

If I ever write a memoir about my life, an entire chapter would be dedicated to Washington, D.C., and the influence the city has had in my life. When I got to a pre-freshman program at Morehouse in the summer of 1997, my knowledge of the city, aside from knowing it was the nation’s capital, was pretty limited to national events that happened there and Marion Barry. That changed that summer. In this summer program were a few students from D.C. and they were just...different.


Anyway, my group of friends from Morehouse and Spelman College heavily consisted of individuals from D.C., and I have no idea if it’s like that anymore, but in the late ’90s in the Atlanta University Center, you could spot a person from D.C. from a mile away. One way you could always tell a person from D.C., (aside from the style of dress) especially if they had a car, was the terrible sounding audio coming from any go-go tape blasting out of their car windows. The live tapes from various shows always sounded like pure shit and that didn’t matter, the music was going to be played. I went to my first go-go in Atlanta during homecoming 1997 at Masquerade when Backyard came down to play.

The tapes sucked but experiencing it live made it make sense. I started to understand the vibe and energy and the pure elation the D.C. homies experienced from the music. And then, since so many of the homies were all from D.C. (one of the homies was even in a go-go band in Atlanta), I started getting into the music and the culture of it. I can’t say that I could easily distinguish who was who, but the sound and the beat and mainly the feel, at some point, became undeniable.

Now, after that long intro, let’s talk about Jill Scott.

Jill Scott might as well have been a meteor that crashed into the Black planet. Her debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 (which just turned 20 years old, having been released on July 18, 2000; 2000 was a very good year for soul music) was ubiquitous. By the time school started in August of 2000, the album was being bumped by everybody. Men and women alike were playing various songs from her album. The open mic spots had “A Long Walk” in their arsenal as the songs that everybody would jam to. “Gettin’ In The Way” was a good song with a video that took it to new levels. “The Way,” “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat),” “Slowly, Surely,” the whole album is a jam. I love it. If you know it, you love it. These folks did a whole podcast episode about the album and I couldn’t agree more with their conclusions. I scream, you scream, let’s all scream for Jill Scott’s debut album.

But there was is one particular song that was then and still is the fucking jam, Jill Scott’s “It’s Love.” It’s a pure go-go jam that is dope, original and jams everywhere. I don’t know if it’s because of my—at the time—appreciation and fascination for D.C., but the energy I felt from the song was immediate. I can still see the way some of my friends reacted whenever it came on.

“It’s Love” even starts out smooth, with Jill singing in that way that drew everybody to her in the first place, over some slight keyboard stabs before the drums kick in and the whole song blows up into a straight jam session. It even has the breakdowns that keep you moving. On an album that was already jam packed full of the sound of neo-soul (at the time), this was a party record, clearly inspired and for D.C. but done in a way that if you liked to move and party, it didn’t matter where you were from when it came on. “It’s Love,” is simply, love, in music form. It’s made for the hips, for two-steppers and for anybody who needs to work out some energy on the dance floor.


Jill Scott is an artist who deserves every bouquet of flowers she gets. Her voice, her sound, her poetry, her acting, her joy, her realism, etc. I don’t know if she’s always being 100 percent transparent, but she feels like she is and that is why she still has a career and a presence and is an artists we all still love and revere. And it all starts—for the vast majority of us—with her debut album in July 2000. I’ve been listening to, and loving, “It’s Love” since I first heard it back then, and I imagine I will for as long as I can hear.

It’s love.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



Love, Love, Love Love, Love, Jill Scott

I grew up in a city between Baltimore and DC, where the fashion was to have two telephone numbers, one with a Baltimore exchange and a second with a DC exchange. Harborplace and Hogates, V103 and 93.9 WKYS, Polo and Lee Flavors, Old Bay, and Mumbo Sauce, we straddled the border of the Mid-Atlantic and the South, the Inbetweeners. Like Sharks and Jets 21207, 21230 vs. 20011, 20002 would converge at our town fair to show off and show out over who was the bigger Bamma, leaving my BFF to ponder why the two camps who both had powerhouse high schools named Dunbar could not get along.

The best thing about the steamy languid summers of my youth in the DMV was the music. My heart could race 120 to 130 beats per minute and then slow to a steady on the 2 and 4 grooves syncopated by cowbells with a change in radio stations. We had to have our House Music, and we Dropped the Bomb. Whereas to enjoy House, all you needed was a DJ with Go Go; you needed a band, so our parents would rent out halls and hire Go Go bands for parties.

Gogo concerts are like waves of infinite vibrations that keep your body in perpetual motion. One nation, one groove, you sway and bounce to the beat until you slip into a trance and let the spirit take over. Free your mind and your ass will follow. It’s the closest to the motherland. We used to joke a Go Go band was 20 drummers, a cowbell and a singer, and if you did not sweat out your hairstyle, you were doing it all wrong. When I left the DMV, I realized that Go Go was a unique gene in my DNA.

Herbie Luv Bug collaborations with Kid N Play and Salt N Peppa was the first time I heard a Go Go beat outside of DC and what impressed me the most was that Kid captured what I called the Go Go shake, an ass friendly upright cousin of Twerking which was more shaking from your shoulders to your butt. EU’s moment to shine aside, I resolved myself that Go Go would never escape the DMV’s confines.

I was barbeque in LA when it first hit me, this airy soprano floating over staccato keyboards, “They say I’m crazy,” and then the DRUMS KICKED IN I lost all sense of space and time. I jumped up and began to Go Go shake, and a filmmaker friend from Philly joined me. We were the only ones. A guest asked me what the was I said Go Go and another guest said no, its Jill Scott, LOL!

As you point out, “It’s Love” is a classic Go Go song from beat to brass to the song’s generous length, clocking in at six minutes. Her range from sweet to sultry. “Do you want it on your collard greens? Do you want it on your candy sweets?” Do you want it on your pickled beets?” Food as love is a recurring theme in Jill Scott songs and learned quickly better have a full stomach before listening to Jilly from Philly. It was THEE jam of the summer 00.