Scott was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She grew up an only child in a North Philadelphia neighborhood, raised by her mother Joyce Scott and grandmother. She recalls a happy childhood and was “very much a loved child”. Scott was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.
After graduating the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Scott attended Temple University. While working two jobs, she studied secondary education. She planned to become a high school English teacher. However, after three years of study and then serving as a teacher’s aide, Scott became disillusioned with a teaching career, and she dropped out of college.
Prior to breaking through the music industry, Scott worked at a variety of jobs, including a number of retail positions and stints at a construction site and an ice cream parlour.
Scott began her performing career as a spoken word artist, appearing at live poetry readings to perform her work. She was eventually discovered by Amir “Questlove” Thompson of the Roots. Questlove invited her to join the band in the studio. The collaboration resulted in a co-writing credit for Scott on the song, “You Got Me”.
Scott was the first artist signed to Steve McKeever’s ‘Hidden Beach Recordings’ label. Her debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 was released in 2000. She experienced some notice and chart success with the single “A Long Walk”, eventually earning a Grammy nomination in early 2003 for Best Female Vocal Performance.
She released 5 studio albums in total, and continues to write poetry; a compilation volume of her poems, The Moments, The Minutes, The Hours, was published and released by St. Martin’s Press in April 2005.
Scott and longtime boyfriend Lyzel Williams, a graphic artist and DJ, married in 2001 in a private Hawaiian ceremony during a vacation. The couple dated for seven years before they wed. Scott wrote and recorded the song “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)” about Williams. After six years of marriage, Scott and Williams divorced in 2007.
She remains close to her mother and grandmother, who is nicknamed Blue Babe. Scott has resided in Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey, and California. As of December 2014, she has been living in Tennessee.
On June 20, 2008, at a concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Scott shared a long on-stage kiss with her drummer, Li’l John Roberts; the couple then told the audience that they were engaged. Their son, Jett Hamilton Roberts, was born on April 20, 2009. On June 23, 2009, Scott announced that she and Roberts had broken up, with Scott breaking the news to Essence magazine. Despite the break-up, Scott hopes for both parents to have an active part in their child’s upbringing, stating that “We definitely love our son and we are co-parenting and working on being friends. It is what it is. I have a lot of support, so I want for nothing as far as that’s concerned.” Scott referenced the break up as some of her latest music’s inspiration.
On June 25, 2016, Scott married long time boyfriend Mike Dobson in a private ceremony. In 2017 she would file for divorce, unbeknown to her husband, just shy of 15 months of marriage.