Updated: May 23, 2020
When I saw the Verzuztv announcement that Jilly from Philly and Erykah Badu (AKA Badoula Oblongata, AKA Sara Bellum, AKA Fatbellybella, AKA She Ill, AKA LowDownLoretta Brown) were going to battle, I smacked my lips and said:
"Chile this ain't bout to be no battle; this a MASTER CLASS boo."
I had only a discerning inkling that this night was special, and that hunch barely winked at the full masterpiece of a night of magic, love, collaboration, unapologetic artistic expertise and overflowing gratitude we all experienced.
So how did a battle between two tenured artists become a garden in which we all win? I'm shol glad you asked.
We won in the following of many ways:
We Won The Music
I don't know about y'all, but Baduism, Mama's Gun and Who is Jill Scott gave me a soundtrack as I blossomed into a young woman. With these albums as a soundtrack, I explored my own religious beliefs, proclivity toward studying science and spirituality, changed my relationship with my dark brown skin, cut off my fried, broken-off relaxed hair to go natural and decided to broaden my focus and energy beyond the attention of men (that one took a while though, TBH).
I learned to value myself and shit, if you don't want be down with me then you really don't want to pick from my apple tree. I learned that a woman can be Cleva, intelligent and sexy and funny and question institutions and be in love and also love herself. I can value my own Rolling Hills as sacred. My ex can Cross My Mind and I can say "Mm Mm Mm" and move forward, knowing it's really over (and HUNTY it need to be).
These ladies have over twenty years of serenading, writing, creating, acting, becoming a doula, lecturing, and who knows what else they are capable of doing well? Baby THE RANGE. The quality of the sounds. The soothing melodies. The commitment to their craft. It was all there for us to sip from like Erykah did with that shiny silver chalice she continued to raise.
Can we just stop and point out THE GIFT of them singing and harmonizing with THEMSELVES over the tracks they were playing? At one point I put my phone in a little tripod holder thing and was just in front of it swaying.
Wigs were not snatched; edges were planted. New growth was nurtured with every song they played.
We Won Their Friendship
Look at my screenshot of Erykah Badu's whole team singing Jill Scott's "The Way."
We live in a time where we read articles like "... 9 Friends You Should Probably to Cut Off and 13 Ways to Know You're In A Toxic Friendship. We watch Insecure Sunday nights and witness the gradual deteriorating of Molly and Issa's friendship with a gnawing knowing because we've all been there.
Side note: I learned that "cutting off" old friends requires much more energy than it does to compassionately release my expectations and be just regular kind if/when I see you. I've recently decided to re-boundary friendships that have been places of silent pain for me. In that process, I am seeking to be a better friend, first to myself, and to the ones I cherish.
Back to the lecture at hand. Last night these ladies revealed to us this beautiful, safe space of love and celebration that friendship between titans can be. Did you know that you can be friends with a fellow magical celestial being and celebrate his or her moments without feeling like you are losing? Did you know you can be friends and not be passive aggressive and slick with the insults?
THERE WAS NOT ONE SHOT FIRED! Just love pwem-pwemed back and forth all night.
I learned so much, like:
Jill Scott's are the only writer's words that Erykah Badu has ever sang other than her own. What an honor.
They both wrote the treatment for and directed their first music videos with no previous experience, just clear vision and self-belief. (Videos that I watched with a hanging jaw, astonished like, 'Ok WAIT. You can love yourself and be happy like that? THE GALL!')
Jill defined "nasty beautiful" as a way to express sensuality and pleasure without being vulgar for us and I'm WITH IT! (GASP! Women can actually enjoy the sex that we are required to have in order to sustain human life on the planet?)
Erykah is the perfect balance of goofy and ethereal and I STAN as a fellow goofball.
Jill's radiance is time-resilient and she is a master of gratitude.
Erykah's vulnerability touched my heart when she mentioned that she never let anyone read her poetry. Jill asked if she would share it with her privately and she said, "...Ok" with such sweetness. I loved that sister-friend moment.
FYI : BOFFUM FINE
We Won Collective Sonder
Sonder is defined as the 'profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it.'
Our faves don't just sit, inanimate, until it is their next turn to perform for us. Everybody is going through what it means to be Beautifully Human. They have relationships, lives, children that need mothering, heartbreaks, back problems, anxieties, and scary next steps just like the rest of us. An unexpected gift of quarantine is the re-humanization of the celebrity and I LOVE IT.
We Won Loving Resilience
I don't know about y'all, but these last few weeks for me ain't been no crystal stair. I have lost two people who were dear to me, both of whom I thought I had more time to love.
Earlier this week, I hosted a virtual concert + meditation event that was hacked and when the terrorist took over our computer, they played a sinister song that repeated "I don't like niggers," and I was MORTIFIED. It was jarring.
Then, to add to the collective grief of understanding the details of Ahmaud Arbery's murder and running for him the previous day, we unexpectedly lost André Harrell and Little Richard. It's been a DAMN DAMN DAMN vibe for me.
You know what I knew without even hearing much about it? Both Jill and Erykah have been through their share of pain. I know they've been told no on the basis of their race, appearance, style. Both women have been outraged by injustice, devastated by loss, and felt like their only power was their voice. They have felt the pull between working to grow as a professional and generously giving yourself to your babies and your family.
They've each been categorized and relegated to genres that cannot begin to describe their immense musical abilities. I know their hearts have been broken, both by their industries and the "other" and by their "own," those closest, dear and near to them. I can hear it in the low tones, the pauses, the high notes, the lyrics. And I feel it because it's my story too.
Have you ever seen Dave Chappelle's Block Party? There is a moment where Erykah Badu takes the stage, and Jill Scott watches from the green room, beaming, (all the way). She says, "I love that woman."
The director, Michel Gondry asks if she is nervous to perform while watching her.
Jill, still smiling, slowly tears her eyes from Erykah's performance and innocently asks him, "Have you ever heard me sing?"
Despite years of comparison and pitting against, these ladies refused to compete. Instead, they joined forces to heal us all.
And we all won.
Danielle Fanfair is a writer, teacher and consultant. She teaches high-impact individuals to go from Confusion to Clarity, understanding the fullness of who they are. Learn more and work with her at www.daniellefanfair.com.