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Originally a street poet who found her singing voice after she sat in with The Roots in her hometown of Philadelphia, Jill Scott was pushed a little too fast on an audience that still hadn’t completely digested the neo-soul stylings of Erykah Badu and Angie Stone. On her first album, Scott’s earthiness was sometimes off-putting, not because it was vulgar, but because it was poetically earnest.

Her second studio record (following a time-marking live CD) is a huge improvement. Three years of touring have made her vocals richer and more varied, and the airy jazz-funk arrangements she’s developed around her lyrics push her words forward rather than compete with them the way the acoustic hip-hop did on her debut. Earthiness is still her main suit, but now its purposes are more identifiable: a man who pleases her and whom she wants to please in return.

Taking the concept of sexual politics literally, she compares her rights as a lover to her rights as a citizen (“I want the feeling of being safe on my streets/I want my children to be smarter than me”) and “petitions” the guy to “remedy my grievances.” Despite the emotional vulnerability underlying her confessional approach, Scott comes across as a woman who knows her mind and is all the sexier for it.

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