The multitalented Jill Scott hardly needs an introduction. As an actor, singer, songwriter, and producer, Scott has graced the entertainment industry for over two decades with her soulful energy. Born in Philadelphia, Scott attended Temple University with the goal of becoming a teacher before leaving college in her third year. She made a name for herself as a spoken-word poet and caught the attention of Questlove (Amhir Thompson) from The Roots. That led to her first cowriting credit in 1999, on the song “You Got Me,” which was performed by The Roots featuring Erykah Badu and Eve. The following year Scott debuted her first album, Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol. 1. Besides introducing the R&B-soul singer on a global stage for the first time, the project was nominated for Best R&B album at the 2001 Grammy Awards.
Since then, Scott has made some 12 projects, including studio albums, live albums, compilation albums, and even a remix album. And while Scott’s music is what she has became the most known for, her talent as an actor was cemented in her role as Mma Ramotswe in the BBC/HBO series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in 2008. This came after her film debut in Hounddog and Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? Since 2019, she’s starred as Hazelle Rachelle in the BET+ series First Wives Club, the second season of which premiered July 15.
Reminiscing on the entirety of her career journey, Scott caught up with Glamour on the five songs in her vast career that hold a special place in her soul.
“The Way” is the third single from her debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Scott cowrote the song with songwriter and producer Andre Harris. “The Way” reached the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.
I was definitely in love. My boyfriend at the time was just so sweet to me and very kind and thoughtful and was real nice. I was being pretty literal in the song, talking about the day that I experienced waking up and making breakfast—like it was very, very literal. There really wasn’t a lot of science to it…I was talking about the day. I even worked on Third Street, as the lyrics say.
Why was I so happy? I was questioning if it was the way he loves me. This mutual sweet love started with a friendship. That’s what made it so different—it being mutual. That’s what made me write about it in the first place. It was precious, you know?
“Whenever You’re Around”
“Whenever You’re Around” was the third single from Scott’s 2007 album, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3. Released in 2008, the song was cowritten by Scott and songwriter and producer JR Hutson. Although there was never an accompanying video, it did well on R&B charts and reached number 16 on Hot Adult R&B Airplay.
“Whenever You’re Around” is a song I wrote when things took a left. When the relationship wasn’t as sweet anymore; we had been married, and it was time to part ways. I had this awesome rhythm that easily could have been like a party song. In fact, Musiq Soulchild asked me why didn’t I make this a jam, and I said that’s the story that came out of me when I heard the music. Because it was bittersweet, at least. That’s the best way I can describe it—the hook of the song says, “I’m lonely whenever you’re around.”