Jill Scott: The Billboard Cover Story
Jill Scott: The Billboard Cover Story

In Scott's case, it meant finding a partner that fit with her expanding entrepreneurial mind-set. "Everyone was interested in Jill but not in the structure we were interested in," Gee says. "Some came with normal royalty-based deals and others with joint ventures. Warner Bros. was very open to a unique structure."

The pact between Warner and Blues Babe is a pure distribution deal complemented by a contracted marketing budget for the singer's projects. "From an economic perspective, Jill gets to maximize the profit potential of her record sales. And from the operational side, we get the muscle and machine behind a major-label artist," Gee says, adding that there was only one other act, the White Stripes, with such a deal at Warner.

Warner Bros. Records co-president/CEO Todd Moscowitz, whose label also recently inked a deal with Rick Ross' Maybach Music, says, "This deal gives Blues Babe the ability to establish itself as a brand, and gives Jill and her team the ability to direct the marketing and promotion of her projects. Jill is an important artist for Warner Bros. as we rebuild our roster. Very few make that cut as 'career artists,' and she's clearly one of them -- with enormous growth potential internationally."

Jill Scott, "Le Boom Vent Suite"

Scott first came to national attention in 2000 when Hidden Beach released her critically acclaimed debut, "Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1." Born in Philadelphia, she attended Temple University and became active in the local poetry scene. Influenced by Gil Scott-Heron, Nikki Giovanni and Chaka Khan, Scott segued into music and co-wrote the Roots' 1999 hit "You Got Me." Powered by her own R&B hits -- "A Long Walk" (No. 9) and "The Way" (No. 15) -- her first album peaked at No. 2 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and has since sold 2.5 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Between a live album and a compilation of collaborations with other singers, two more studio albums were released before Scott and Hidden Beach severed ties. "Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2" (2004, 880,000) debuted at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 3 on the Billboard 200. "The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3" (2007, 665,000) peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Scott is also a three-time Grammy Award winner, most recently for best urban/alternative performance in 2007 for "Daydreamin' " with Wasalu Muhammad Jaco.

But now it's time for something new. Equal parts soulful, sultry, sassy, introspective and empowering, the vibrant 15-song "Light of the Sun" re-establishes the singer's unique love affair with words and penchant for integrating everything from R&B, hip-hop, jazz, gospel and improvisation into her music. Scott and songwriter J.R. Hutson (Musiq Soulchild, Keke Wyatt) executive-produced "Light," with additional production contributions from Andre Harris and Vidal Davis, aka Dre & Vidal (Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey), and Warryn Campbell (Kanye West, Alicia Keys), among others. In addition to Hamilton, the guest list features Eve, Doug E. Fresh and Paul Wall. Beyond the single, additional standout tracks include "Blessed," a tribute to her son; the emotion-packed "Hear My Call," about healing a broken heart; female anthem "Rolling Hills"; the illuminating treatise "Womanifesto"; and the playful "Le Boom Vent Suite."

Hutson, who worked with Scott for the first time on 2007's "The Real Thing," says "Le Boom" is a perfect example of the singer's desire to destroy more boundaries and let whatever happens in the studio happen. "She Jay-Z-ed that song," he says. "Singing as she was writing it. And when we stopped the tape, that's what the song was. She has such a dedication to being honest -- that permeates her music." All Scott wanted, she says, was to choose collaborators who could "embody the energy I was going for. Without any pretense, without knowing what I was going to say . . . there was no guidance except for the energy and spirit in the room. I'm a big Salvador Dali fan; he put his blood and everything else he had in his painting. That's how it is for me. There's no blood on this record, but there sure is some heart."