Posted On Thursday, July 23, 2020

Erykah Verzuz Jill – the Battle was Really a Collabo – and We Were all For It!

Ok, this was actually a dream come true.  Jilly from Philly VZ.The First Lady of Neo Soul.  Truth be told they are both in my Top 5 of female vocalists.  They both have the chops, are innovative and know how to put on a show, but bottom line, they both helped to create a soundtrack for our generation.  “Our” being those grown folks sandwiched between Generation X and Millenialism.  When Erykah came out with “On and On” back in early 1997, I was like damn, that’s “The” vibe  – laid back in the pocket, beat kickin like a motha, and vocals that exuded passion, grace and a jazzy-hip-hop sensibility.  Damn that was it!  The album Baduizm went on to define what Neo-Soul was deemed to be, though Urban Hang Suite by Maxwell in April of ’96, Groove Theory by the duo Groove Theory dropping in late ’95and D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar dropping in July ‘95 can also lay claim to architects of the genre. Then came our girl Jilly in July of 2000 and she wrecked shop, deepening the genre with her brand of jazz infused soul riffs on top of the kick and snare and Rhodes piano. Who is Jill Scott? is a centerpiece of Soul music not just Neo-Soul music. 

Let’s get it straight though – this was no battle. No, not all, on Saturday, May 9, 2020 I witnessed, I mean over 720,000 witnessed, a live “Collabo!”  Of course we all went in thinking VZ’s were only an hour long due to the limits of IG Live, so when we got to minute 20 and Erykah Badu was just finalizing her set up from here in Dallas, I was a little concerned.  Jilly had been setting the mood previously with a background track of spoken word from none other than Nikki Giovanni. But as soon as they began to vibe and talk about how excited they were to be in each other’s presence and discussed the challenges and rewards of home schooling their children in the Quarantine Era, I was sitting there smiling, beginning to understand that this was going to be somethin a little different.

They kicked the Collabo off by both playing “You Got Me”from The Roots’ Things Fall Apart album. Erykah of course sang the hook in the released song and video, but Jill wrote the song and sang the demo hook. It was the perfect way to show them both blowing on this classic hook, with Erykah’s album release version and Jill’s live version recorded in NYC at a concert that Erykah missed due to traffic.  It was also the perfect way to establish the foundation for the evening. We are friends, not combatants, who have collaborated from the beginning and will be collaborating tonight. And it went “On and On” from there.  

Speaking of Collabo’s, my man Torrence got the rest of this one.

Yezzir.  The story related by Jill was the type of insight that proved why this format is so dope.  Jill hearing the song pointed out her nervous she was performing in front of the crowd. Its damn near unfathomable that this titan of Neo-Soul had EVER been nervous about flexing her gift.  This was just one of the many anecdotes that made this set so damn dope.

For three hours they kicked it back and forth trading road stories in between the songs that came to define a genre.  The names in the chat gave a good idea of how anticipated this event was.  Classic artists like Snoop, Nas, Luda, Queen Latifah and Alicia Keys and current stars Snoh Alegra, Kehlani, Moonchild and Syd…but when Michelle Obama up in the spot you know it’s the place to be.  Verzuz battles and D-Nice have created a space during our Covid19 quarantines where we can commune and feel part of a collective. 

Jill realizing that the set had gone for two hours pointed this out to Badu who, without pause stated “I have no concept of time”, something anyone who has ever attended her show could tell you.  But it meant something different here. The music and vibe literally made time stop, yesterday was today and the now was the moment to be in. For three hours we were given a space where the fact that we are so disproportionately affected by a virus that kills or that our businesses were not being granted the aid that was promised or that a jogger in GA had been hunted and slaughtered could be forgotten.  A safe harbor of sound, a blanket born of the bounty of their respective catalogs.  

I could go “On & On” but that would be “Getting in the Way” as it very well could be our “Next Lifetime” before we have “Love Rain” like it did from these two.  And speaking of love, when Michelle Obama tagged President Obama during “Crown Royal” I’m pretty sure I had “Green Eyes” of envy at that “goals” level display of black love.

This was an event for the culture.  Relive it here on YouTube.

 We’ve also provided links to the setlists on SpotifyTidal and Apple Music below.

Grab a “Window Seat” and get to streamin’ as “Time’s a Wastin”.