Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.
OKENYO: Jill Scott – Who Is Jill Scott?
Dear Who is Jill Scott,
Who were you? I met you on my fifteenth birthday, I saw the neat little thin square my brother had wrapped and I knew music was coming my way. I had no idea you would mean so much to me.
First of all because my brother had given it to me. He was clearly the master and I since my preteens had secretly been learning the words to his favourite Smashing Pumpkins record to get closer to him. When I opened the wrapping and revealed the cover I had no idea who it was. He assured me he’d heard you were amazing and that he thought I’d like you. He was right.
As soon as ‘Jilltro’ starts I am hooked. The pulsing delay in the warm welcome, like perhaps you’re even talking to me! You say what you look for is ‘love’. You’re gentle and fun and cool and I want to be your friend and learn all the words to get closer to you too.
Tracks like ‘Do You Remember, A Long Walk, The Way’ and ‘Honey Molasses’ lull me into a deep memory and a soft romantic melancholy I’ve not yet experienced yet at 15 but will go on to find in my adult life is a core part of who I am. It’s familiar but foreign, a moment of blooming.
I was obsessed with track three – ‘Exclusively’. The drama! The suspense! The sex! Really put me into a spin. I was a worldly young woman but when it came to sex and sexuality I wasn’t actually too interested and a little naive. It begins as a sexy tale of love making and connection, sensual and deep. When you get to the store to buy orange juice ($3.29) and croissants ($4.85), the gaze between you and the cute cashier cuts the air like a knife through butter ($0.89). Time slows, intuition grows, she sniffs and sniffs and sniffs again and then replies – “Raheem right?” Right. I learnt this track off by heart very quickly. There is so much in it. You told a whole story with multiple locations and characters in a simple short poem. I realised then the power of storytelling through song. Were you a poet? Were you a singer? Were you a rapper? Really though, Who Is Jill Scott?
‘Love Rain’ is another one that haunts me today and continues to reveal itself to me the older I get. When I was younger I didn’t catch onto the complexity of this story, instead I felt the rain, the 84 degree heat and the sting of uncertainty. As I got older it started to ring out to me loudly this story of wild staccato love making, sex as powerful as an entire orchestra at the climax of a composition ending with the realisation of a seed being sewn and the deep unknown.
Then by the end, you’re letting me know all I gotta do is Try and Try once again, then try a few more times, then Try after then. It’s sweet and affirming and just what little Zindz wants to hear cause she’s already doing her own thing, eyes and heart so open. This record is like a long slow memory, filled with nostalgia within my own remembrance but intertwined within the lyrics, within the story. A few years later I made a new friendship group at school and they knew who you were and they introduced me to your friend Erykah Badu. You, me, her and my friends all hung out quite a lot in my final years of school and even now, I listen to you regularly to remind me of where my love of music began and to have a full and satisfying sing out loud. Thank you.
With harmony and memory,