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The fans’ guide to the historic Erykah Badu and Jill Scott Instagram battle

The latest #Verzuz battle pits the two queens of neo soul against one another, all in good fun. Who ya got?

The fans’ guide to the historic Erykah Badu and Jill Scott Instagram battle
[Photo: Aaron J. Thornton/FilmMagic via Getty Images (Scott); Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images (Badu)]

Swizz Beatz and Timbaland have been keeping people entertained during quarantine with their #Verzuz battle series.

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So far, we’ve seen RZA versus DJ Premier, and the last battle between Babyface and Teddy Riley was so epic that Instagram could barely handle the half-million people (probably more) participating in the chat room.

The next battle, set for Saturday, May 9, is obviously going to be another big deal.

Enter Jill Scott and Erykah Badu.

Swizz Beatz brought in the month of May with an announcement that the battle of the queens of neo soul will take place just in time for Mother’s Day. They’re the first women to go head to head, and it’s a pairing that has been long discussed in the neo-soul fan community. These battles aren’t actually a standard competition with actual judges. They’re more about major talents being paired up to celebrate their work.

However, the fans will judge, because that’s what happens on the internet.

Both women are extremely talented and accomplished, but their fans are taking sides—something Scott and Badu are both aware of. That’s why the legendary singer/songwriters created a cheeky promo spot for the upcoming battle, where they’re singing each other’s songs.

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Choosing between the two isn’t easy, but #TeamErykahBadu and #TeamJillScott have formed. We’re talking about over 20 years of musical brilliance coming to a head, so here’s what you need to know about Erykah Badu and Jill Scott before spectating the battle.

Origin stories

Badu made her official debut in 1997. Her first single, “On & On,” had a trippy, jazzy sound that was unlike anything on the radio at the time. She has always been heavily involved in her own production and songwriting, and sometimes you have to listen multiple times to figure out the true meaning of her oft-cryptic lyrics. Her debut album, Baduizm, which produced the top-charting singles “Appletree,” “Otherside of the Game,” and “Next Lifetime,” sold nearly three million copies and won two Grammys. Badu also drew comparisons to a modern-day Billie Holiday and even Chaka Khan. She followed up her debut album with a live album that blessed fed-up women everywhere with “Tyrone.” Her next studio album, Mama’s Gun, solidified her title as the queen of neo soul, but the album—with its blaxploitation movie vibe—experimented with Jimi Hendrix-inspired rock infused with her already established jazzy R&B sound. Roy Ayers, Roy Hargrove, Stephen Marley, Questlove, and J Dilla helped her further develop the experimental genre-bending sound that has become her signature. Her last album (out of six), titled New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh, turned 10 on March 30. Badu has been keeping busy lately with her “Quarantine Concert Series.”

Scott came on the scene in 2000 with her debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol 1. The Philadelphia native established herself as the singer and poet who was just as tough as she appeared earthy. Her debut single, “A Long Walk,” found Jill Scott asking her lover to go on a walk where they’d “spark conversation, verbal elation, stimulation”—and fall deeper in love. But then there was also “Gettin in the Way,” a sassy rebuke of the woman trying to steal her lover away from her. Comparisons are natural, especially when it comes to creative women who occupy the same space, but Scott firmly established that she was the one Jilly from Philly and that she was here to stay. The Grammy Award-winning, chart-topping virtuoso went on to release eight albums over the course of the last decade, and she has amassed impressive acting credits as well, appearing in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Black-ish, Black Lightning, and more. She would have been on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of her debut album under normal circumstances, but the coronavirus crisis upended everyone’s lives.

The story behind ‘You Got Me’

The Roots’ 1999 single “You Got Me” is legendary because it’s catchy, of course, but mainly because of its hook. The album version of the song features Badu singing that hook, and she’s in the video. But then the Roots went on tour shortly after the song blew up, and when Jill Scott joined them during performances of the song, she sang the hook, and fan’s minds were blown.

It turned out that Scott originally wrote and recorded the hook. She was unknown beyond the Philadelphia music scene—this was before her album had come out—so MCA Records insisted that Badu rerecord it because she was already a high-profile artist.

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The original version, with Scott, was ultimately released on the 2005 compilation album Home Grown! Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the Roots. To this day, Scott and Badu have maintained that there is no tension between them. The duo actually performed the song together at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, in 2004, but there was a moment where it appeared as if they were having a sing-off.

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Soulquarians

Soulquarians was a creative collective of artists labeled as neo soul, alternative hip-hop, and funk and soul. It consisted of Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Common, Questlove, D’Angelo, Q-Tip, James Poyser, J Dilla, and Bilal. Questlove and J Dilla were the musical masterminds behind several of the collective’s projects during the late ’90s and early 2000s, including the Roots’ Things Fall Apart, D’Angelo’s Voodoo, Common’s Like Water for Chocolate, and Badu’s Mama’s Gun. Jill Scott was not a Soulquarian, but she collaborated with multiple people in the collective.

Esoteric references

Some people hate the term “neo soul.” The argument is that the concept of soul music isn’t new.

But it’s a name that stuck, and it has come to describe the genre in terms of an experimental sound fused with classic soul, jazz, rock, funk, and hip-hop—as well as the signature bohemian fashions sported by many of its purveyors.

Fans preparing for the Erykah Badu and Jill Scott battle did not skimp on the jokes and references to ankhs, knit caps, meditation, burning sage, crystals, head wraps, jean skirts, fisherman caps—and, of course, their favorite songs.

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