Interview: Jill Scott Talks 'Get On Up' and Connection to James Brown

It’s not often that one gets the opportunity to meet one of the few people they admire and respect enough to call a role model. And it’s even more rare to have a chance to speak with them while overlooking one of the world’s best skylines, in a hotel fit for the royal family. Although Jill Scott’s and my experiences were different, those awe-inspiring feelings were mutual.

So while I sat inches away, staring at my she-ro, Jill Scott would occasionally tilt her head to the right and gaze out of the floor to ceiling windows. I can imagine her musings didn’t have anything to do with the view of Manhattan’s beautiful architecture. No, she was thinking of the amazing spirit she had encountered: that of the Godfather of Soul.

As she dished about her role in Get On Up to us, Jill Scott couldn’t help but reminisce about the admiration and love she felt in playing the second wife of James Brown, DeeDee Brown. She emphatically declared, “I miss him,” and “I fell in love with him” while describing the connection she had to both DeeDee and James Brown. And while the kindred spirit seems a bit bizarre, one conversation with this golden actress made me believe it’s definitely real. —Adrian Hunter

Photo Credits: Getty Images

So, what made you want to get involved with this film in particular?

Really it was James Brown, number one.  I’m a huge fan of the man, the talent, the voice, the charisma, the stage presence, the command of [his] band…

Yeah, the fact that you can do that list is…

…amazing. I don’t idolize anybody. I don’t believe in idols. But there are a couple of people in this world that I do respect to such a degree: James Brown is one of them. Whoopi Goldberg is another one. Barbara Streisand, Beth Midler. I like the renaissance folks who can pretty much do it all. James Brown’s niche was being on that stage and writing these songs that go straight to the heart and singing them with such passion and conviction that you want to be a part of it too. Then two was the script itself. I was surprised at what I was reading. You know about his life. But I wasn’t quite prepared.

And Tate Taylor. I saw his work with The Help and I said I want to be around that. I’ll be anybody. I’ll be an extra. I’ll work the cafeteria. I just want to be in the room. That way I can learn something. So I auditioned and Tate and his good graces decided to create a role for me that wasn’t originally in the script.

I noticed that James Brown was one of the few big performers that you mentioned was someone you looked up to. How has he influenced your music?

It’s that guttural passion where those sounds come from. It’s not something that you learn in a class. You don’t get those sounds everyday—those high-pitched screeches and yelps. They’re coming from somewhere deep. So the film allows you to see where they’re really coming from. The man knew how to write a song from a place that’s so deep and so rich. How could you not be inspired by James Brown? If Michael Jackson were alive he would tell you the same thing; I’m certain of it. Prince is alive and he’ll tell you that as soon as you see him. There’s no way around being influenced by James Brown’s music.

What was it like working with other amazing actors?

I’m really still pinching myself. Watching Nelsan [Ellis] work with that gentleness in his eyes and that broad capacity to speak through them, all I got was lessons. All I did was learn. I’m a voyeur.  I’m always in the cut looking, if I can help it. I got a chance to see Viola [Davis] and watch her change her walk from coming down the steps of the trailer to walking on set. Chad and I would be sitting and talking about whatever we were talking about in the morning, laughing it up. And then he’d put on that costume and he [was] James Brown.

I really fell in love with James Brown. I normally don’t claim feelings that I have from characters. You play a role. You bury them. You say peace and you keep it pushing. But I haven’t been able to let go of DeeDee. And I didn’t know that until I saw the film because as soon as he came up on the screen I wanted to cry immediately because I miss him. This is the first time I’ve ever had this reaction.

How do you take all those feelings and channel them into your next projects?

It’s a whole different person. I’ve got to get DeeDee off of me. I’ll see her and that will help me know that I am not DeeDee.

Right because she’s there. She’s DeeDee. You’re Jill.

Exactly. And it’s so crazy to have the feelings of someone for someone [else] that isn’t living, [but] a character created by another guy. That’s not James Brown. I know this. It’s just so weird to me.

What can you tell us about your next projects?

The next film is with Lifetime and it’s called With This Ring. I read the script, enjoyed it and said, “This will be fun.” I got cast but I don’t know who I’m playing yet.

I’m still working on the two albums. I realized something about what I do. I don’t want to sing anything that I don’t want to sing forever, because I’ll be singing them for the rest of my life.

Is that something you took from the film because you can see that in James Brown’s music?

Definitely. I just don’t want to sing anything that will be ridiculous in forty or fifty years. So I’m learning as I go.

 

'Get On Up' will be in theaters beginning, Friday (August 1).

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Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.

 

Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

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aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
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Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

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The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

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Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

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View this post on Instagram

 

I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

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This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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