Scott is hot: Jill's new album drops

Jill Scott's former students - creatively awakened to "Macbeth" by her notion of singing Willie the Shake to doo-wop tunes - might not agree.

But the rest of the world owes a big thanks to the grumpy principal at Dobbins High School who so dispirited Scott as an English-teacher trainee, telling her she'd soon "get over" her idealism, that the young woman quit to start working full time at even more creative endeavors.

Clearly, things have turned out well for the singer/poet/actress and community philanthropist from Philadelphia who's become an artist of international renown with her poignant, proud and conscientious variations on "neo-soul" music.

Hers is a sonic art shaped to be populist and highfalutin', demure yet feisty and sometimes even naughty by nature.

In the 11 years since she debuted with "Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1," the artist has sold more than 4 million albums for the small independent label Hidden Beach, won three Grammys and risen to the rank of theater headliner and arena co-star with the likes of Maxwell.

Scott also earns fans and praise for acting - in Tyler Perry films, a Lifetime channel movie and, especially, with her starring role in the first-ever-filmed-in-Botswana TV series "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency."

Of late, anticipation has also been running high for Scott's fourth studio album of fused-up soul, jazz, hip-hop, blues, theatrical pop and poetry called "The Light of the Sun." The first single, a duet with Anthony Hamilton called "So In Love," has already soared to the top of the R&B chart.

Hamilton will be along for the ride (with fellow album guest Doug E. Fresh, Mint Condition and DJ Jazzy Jeff) on Scott's first "Summer Block Party" tour as an amphitheater headliner. (It's due to hit Charlotte on Aug. 24.)

"I've got this reputation as a naturalistic, jazzy singer/poet who wears a flower in her hair, who loves Ella (Fitzgerald) and Sarah (Vaughan), who came out of the Black Lily scene," said Scott.

Scott was an integral part of the Black Lily cultural commune of the 1990s, built around a weekly Philadelphia club (the Five Spot) night and living room get-togethers with other new MC and musician talents such as Jaguar Wright, Bilal, Nou Ra and the Jazzyfatnastees.