Verzuz/And: 3 Lessons from Jill Scott and Erykah Badu

“There’s a lot of great writers that are watching us tonight that are holding on to amazing work- thoughtful work, work that will change lives- because they don’t know how people will accept it or receive it. And it doesn’t matter. You just have to get it out. You’re just holding on to something that at this point doesn’t even belong to you anymore… You have to release it to the world.”

-Jill Scott

Something incredible happened on May 9, 2020. Two Black women got on Instagram Live and uplifted each other, their creative collaborators, inspirations, and community.

It wasn’t a fight that went viral.

It was two fiercely gifted Black women breathing life into a valley of dry bones.

For the better part of two hours, over 600,000 people tuned in on various devices to listen to these two women talk about creative expression, what they admire in each other, and having the courage to do what needs to be done.

No shoes were thrown.

No insults hurled.

Hair stayed intact.

Clothes stayed on.

Admittedly, some tuned in expecting drama. They were quickly course-corrected by these Queens. This would be a drama-free night. It would be a walk down memory lane for some of us and an introduction to truly phenomenal music to others.

It was a whole vibe. One that required me to pour a glass of wine, sit in my kitchen with my eyes closed, and just think.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to be perfectly honest. I’ve seen Jill Scott in concert. Her music speaks to my spirit in a way I can not fully articulate. Sometimes it resonates so deeply that it is uncomfortable to admit. I don’t want to face my pain, but I acknowledge the need to do so for my own growth.

And then there’s Erykah. Her music speaks to my intellect, which I value above almost every other attribute. The combination of her distinct sense of melodic dissonance coupled with a truly unique vocal instrument causes a visceral reaction in my soul. And then she sings lyrics that stretch my imagination in ways I never expect.
Jill speaks to my connection with humanity. Erykah speaks to my connection with divinity. This wasn’t a battle of exclusion, but rather an invitation to collective greatness.

They offered us three invaluable lessons.

Lesson #1: We need to listen to our Black Queens

There is so much that Black women want to say. There is so much that Black women need to say. There is so much America can learn from the American experience of Black women. And yet, in every arena, our words are censored and passions tempered for the comfort of everyone else. We need to just let it out and let others work through their discomfort as we often must silently work through our own.

Jill: You didn’t have to do that.

Erykah: Yes, I did.

Jill Scott and Erykah Badu discussing Erykah’s decision to sing music written by a then unknown artist

Lesson #2: Acknowledging another’s greatness does not diminish our own

I almost feel like I need to say that again for the folks in the back. Erykah and Jill pointed out the hyped-up beef that was created to pit them against each other. Instead of feeding into it, they chose to learn from each other and work together. Each woman has her own signature. Both have left undeniable footprints on the music industry. And all without tearing each other down. All of us can learn from their example.

“I just had so much in me that I needed to get out, and I still don’t know how I’m going to get all of this out”

Erykah Badu

Lesson #3: We should never stop exploring our own creativity

Both women are much more than just singers. They have branched out into other creative platforms for the sake of expressing themselves. Our culture makes us feel like we are all too old to do anything new. We must stay in our lane. If I am a writer, then I should start in the womb and not do anything else. But creativity comes in many forms. Sometimes the form that we are the most comfortable with is not the form our expression must take. It is up to us to be brave enough to explore and put ourselves out there. After all, our creativity is not our own; it belongs in the world.

These women reminded me that there is hope. Amidst the tragedy that is the state of this union, there is hope. There is a reason I still work as hard as I do. Despite the insurmountable shit that I have to put up with, the baseless judgments and inaccurate evaluations, their music exudes an understanding of something higher than the cage America tries to keep us in. We are encouraged, especially in these times, to bring that system to its knees. Collectively we have the power to do it.

So let it, boo.

It no longer belongs to you.

In case you missed it, or if you just need a boost in your day, here’s the full video.

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