Bully for Adam Serwer; Adam Serwer Is Wrong.


So that high-yellow motherfucker Adam Serwer, a fantastic blogger and good friend, is getting his own bloggy digs over at The American Prospect. To which we say: congrats. This is a good look, and he deserves it.

But.

This dude is dead wrong on one of the most important issues of our day: the relative musical merits of  E. Badu and  Jill Scott. Now, I will grant that Jill is a better singer than Erykah (and most folks for that matter). And yes, she hails from the greatest city that ever citied, be looking rather right, created the album that was the soundtrack to my first real relationship, was introduced to the world by my favorite group, and has cultivated a reputation as a monstrous live act.

But there’s nothing on her resume, to my mind, that can touch the excellence of Mama’s Gun. It’s not even close. Me and this cat once had an extended argument about this in a bar. He brought up the fact that Jill stole Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. To which I say: come on, duke. Kobe Bryant has more range on his jumper than Michael Jordan ever did, but Jordan was a superior player. (There will people who argue this point as well, and I don’t know why you keep friends with people with such bad judgment. They can’t be trusted, and will let you walk out the house looking a damn mess and not tell you.)

Adam was on the wrong side of this debate, and thus, of history. And he remains there. Jackass.

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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

27 comments to Bully for Adam Serwer; Adam Serwer Is Wrong.

  • If you can open your album with “Penitentiary Philosophy” and close with “Green Eyes”, you’se a bad mammajahambo.

    • and the thing is, those songs couldn’t be more sonically different. And yet, they both make complete sense on that album. It’s like a clinic on track sequencing.

  • Scipio Africanus

    Mama’s Gun was certainly the best Neo-Soul album of the 2000′s, and possibly the best R&B album of the entire decade.

    Further, I would say that Jill Scott has a fuller, warmer tone than Badu, but that’s not necessarily better or worse, just different. Badu’s tone is brassy and piercing, and she knows how to employ it to her advantage. Plus, Badu’s sense of melodic phrasing is superb. Unfortunately, melodicism has become something of a lost art in today’s music, where a choppy, Hip-Hop derived aesthetic has subsumed R&B melody writing. This is even more remarkeable given Badu’s documented love of Hip-Hop as an artform.

    Now Words and Sounds was the absolute shizznits as well. Jill brought a spoken-word sensibility to her writing and singing. In fact, I’d say that album was probably what every bad spoken word artist is striving for, even though she’s mostly singing on it, and not reciting. It always struck me as the culmination of years of creative and artistic energy from her that was waiting to be unleashed (remember, she was kind of old when that album hit – like 28).

    However, you have to wonder what kind of output Jill would have had if she’d been a full-on member of the Soulquarians proper, and had received the kind of attention from Quest and James Poyser that Erykah did. When the Soulquarians were at all-cylinders, A Touch Of Jazz was not seeing them, good as they were.

    • “but that’s not necessarily better or worse, just different.”

      Yea, this. They aren’t comparable. I love both equally as much as I hate on Bey (shout out to Val ‘-) but the moods I’m in when I listen to each is different. Don’t make me choose! :P

      I’ve seen Erykah live and she wrecked me.

      That said, this Roots/You Got Me rip by Jill haunts me.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b5lNKnqp_o

  • Lemu

    In Adams defense, Erykah’s debut album ushered in what would later be called the “Neo Soul” movement, but Jill’s “Words & Sounds Vol 1″ catapulted that movement to the stratosphere where it remained for a few years.

    Mama’s gun was, without doubt, the zenith of the movement, and I don’t think anyone will question who wins the creativity debate. However Jill Scott’s contribution and consistency can’t be counted out. Jill Scott always puts on a great show, and more importantly is always ON TIME for her shows. And yes, punctuality counts for something. lol

  • LMAO.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate
    Tiffany

  • zac

    ahem, where is the link where is the link???

    I love both like sisters, but compare the two as artists. Jill made one amazing (and groundbreaking at its time) album, where Erykah made 2 (Baduizm + Mama’s Gun), definitely, plus New Amerykahs 1&2, a stellar EP. Plus requisite batshit craziness–all markers that she is the Artist here. Jill has a respectable career, but at this point she is known more for her acting–great acting, yes, but make a late-career solid album that comes close to NA2 and I will give you another vote. Pains me as a fellow Philadelphian, but Erykah wins, hands down.

  • Darth Paul

    I’d happily take either of these fine musicians over anything Bey or JHud ever made (or will make).

  • Just saw Erykah for the umpteeth time on Saturday when she hit the stage before Maxwell. As always she thrilled. But during intermission as I waited on line for the ladies’ room, I overheard some reactions to her performance. For folks who were there to see the main act, Maxwell, it seemed like they weren’t feeling Badu’s set, save for her well-known, more mainstream singles.

    I figured they were into a more soulful sound that was easy to digest. Not to take away from Maxwell or, more to the point of this post, Jill Scott, as great artists, but I feel like Erykah’s creativity is riskier and I like that. I buy her albums no question, without having to preview tracks or “share” files with friends. Folks say that Jill has the stronger voice… it’s definitely more soulful in that R&B, ’round the way, churchy way that’s come to symbolize (good) Black singing. Erykah’s voice, while not as strong in that way, still has solid footing in old school jazz. I LOVE when she throws her head back and sort of wails but maintains control.

    The best moment of Chapelle’s Block Party was when they both held the stage for “You Got Me” and engaged in a tug of war of tribal screams and scatting. I loved Jill when she first broke onto the scene. I can remember playing her cd on the bus around campus. Mama’s Gun, however, has a firm place in the soundtrack of my life.

    Erykah wins. Where’s Adam? Don’t make me take of my earrings.

  • I was with you 100% ’till you dropped this gem…

    “Kobe Bryant has more range on his jumper than Michael Jordan ever did, but Jordan was a superior player.”

    ***sigh***

    Now I’m lookin’ all sideways at your logic…

    • explain yourself, duke.

    • blackink

      I might even argue that Kobe has a more complete offensive arsenal than Michael Jordan ever did. But the things MJ did well on the court, he did more awesome than anyone else. Like relentless driving to the cup.

      Also, I saw Erykah perform live seven years ago in Austin. I don’t even know if she had an opening act. But she went hard for 3 hours and Shani’s favorite hip-hop artist even made a guest appearance near the end. It was a gorgeous performance, y’all.

      All that to say, I don’t even wanna hear this Jill is better jazz.

      • right, and i think part of the not-driving-relentlessly thing is sort of a function of how they were physically built. Consider how infrequently MJ missed games due to injury (save that ’85 season with the broken foot). I don’t think Kobe’s soft at all, but I do think the pounding of driving baseline had different impacts on their bodies.

        And in the end, MJ would go on those scoring binges where he’d stay above 30 for a week or so, but he’d also do that shooting over 50 from the field AND getting to the line a ton. Kobe doesn’t shoot nearly as high a clip from the field. Check their career shooting percentages. He was also a really, really, REALLY good passer.

    • zac

      how did this divine conversation devolve into one about SPORTS? ugh!

  • J

    After reading this post I am tempted to forgive you for your unwavering fealty to The Roots, who are straight up wack.

    I was never a Jill fan. I could never take that whole spoken word vibe seriously, though her voice has a certain purity I admire. I’ve always loved Erykah’s sensibility and ideas. Ever since that first phenomenal album. I’m a bit taken aback by the exaggerated praise for Mama’s Gun though. It’s sorta like when I hear D’Angelo fans gush over that lousy second album. Makes no sense.

  • After reading this post I am tempted to forgive you for your unwavering fealty to The Roots, who are straight up wack.

    fuck around and get banned.

    never has there been so much wrong in one post.

  • LBG

    I give it to Jill on the consistency of her body of work but, I am with you on Mama’s Gun, in comparing the two I have to say that Mama’s Gun is the single best work between the two artist. It’s close for me because I think “The Real Thing Words and Sounds Vol. 3″ is in MG territory though.

  • first -

    we > here <. mama's gun over anything jill's ever done. if only for the dearth of the pomposity that weeps out of jilly's pores.

    but, the mere placement of superlatives adjunct to any of these things – mama's gun, the roots, philadelphia, kobe bryant/michael jordan – avails the ensuing discussion to all sorts of frustratingly wrong blather that i can't even bear to read the comments above mine.

    (oh, btw: i'd say kobe and jordan's midrange game is EASILY a toss up. jordan couldn't hit a j, man?!)

    • no, no, no. i said *more* range. Kobe takes a lot more threes than Jordan did, and hits them at a fairly high clip. Jordan could make threes obviously, but he averaged far fewer attempts.

      And I don’t think the MJ/Kobe midrange thing is a tossup, actually. Jordan was better there (and in the post) than Kobe.

  • Here’s a useful distinction: Jill Scott’s a better singer; Erykah is a better musician. Scott’s got a lot more tonal range and flexibility, but Badu does way more interesting things with the melody and production (New Amerykah Pt. 1 pretty much blows the doors off all R&B production of the last decade).

    Helpful?

  • Christian

    I think it’s all about preference. Each of their fans’ belief in their greatness makes them great. They both possess qualities that are sonically stellar. It’s difficult to compare artists unless it’s ridiculously one-sided like comparing Bing Crosby to Lena Horne or Rihanna to Tamia. I would state my preference but I’m afraid G.D. will ban me.

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