Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jill Scott - Ain't A Ceiling (Videos, Lyrics, & Comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases videos of a partial & the full version of Jill Scott's song/poem "Ain't A Ceiling". This post also provides the full English language lyrics to this song/poem and a French translation of a partial version (as found on a YouTube viewer comment thread.)

The content of this post is presented for inspirational and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owner.

Def Poetry: Jill Scott- "Aint a Ceiling"

Uploaded by im00your00density on Feb 22, 2007

Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry returns to HBO for a sixth season, now airing every Friday at midnight.
Another version of this same video describes it as the "official version" of this poem. However, several commenters indicated that the end of the poem is missing, the audience applause at the end being added to that last portion. A video of the full version of this performance is found below.
Selected comments from this video's viewer comment thread are excerpted in this post. WARNING: A number of comments in that thread contain profanity, racist, and/or sexist references.

Jill Scott - Ain't A Ceiling (Full version}

Jill Scott Ain't A Ceiling (Full Version) by Abstractionz

By Abstractionz

Reposted from

LYRICS - Ain't A Ceiling
(Jill Scott)

You say life's been hard on you.
Well brother I got news; it's hard on me too.
We seem to face the same old issues.
Some are just surface, some are deep some deep down in the tissue.
And I know slavery has played its part, word.
Being separated and subjugated and that passes to the brain of a child
So I want to step off what was, and start with the right now
You say "the world just don't understand"
But I ain't the world my love, I'm your woman.
And I know how deep it really goes
Trying to tread on a dream when the water feels low.
Ohh, if our ancestors could walk, barefoot, afraid in the dark, for miles and miles...
I know we can do this, come on let's start.
I wanna be real with you
I wanna get healed by you
I wanna grow up with you
I wanna be more with you
Be what’s in store for you
Open the doors for you
to a truer healing
Can you imagine the feeling
The sky ain’t a ceiling
At all

Part of this transcription is reposted from; transcription by lisejoan, 2010
Editor: lisejoan gave the French translation in parenthesis following each line. I separated them to enhance the reading experience.

NomadicSoulSahel also posted the English language words to this poem on that same viewer comment thread.

End transcription by Azizi Powell

LYRICS - Ain't A Ceiling (French Language, Partial Version)
(Jill Scott)

LYRICS (French Language Partial Version)

Tu dis que la vie est dure pour toi
Ben, mon frere, J'ai une nouvelle: C'est dur pour moi aussi.
Apparemment on traverse les meme vieux problemes
Certains superficiels, d'autres profonds, d'autres profondement incrustres dans la chair
Et je sais que l'esclavage a joue son role, oui
etre separe et subjugue et c'est transmis au cerveau d'un enfant
Alors je veux sortir du passe, et commencer avec le "maintenant"
TU dis "Le monde ne me comprend pas"
Mais je ne suis pas le monde, mon amour, je suis ta femme
Et je comprends a quel point on peut etre affecte
En essayer de realiser un reve quand les eaux se font rares
Oh si nos ancetres pouvaient marcher pieds nus, malgre leur peur dans le noir, pour des kilometres et des kms et des kms....
Je sais qu'on peut le faire. Allons y... commencons

Reposted from; transcription by lisejoan, 2010
Editor: lisejoan gave the French translation in parenthesis following each line. I separated them to enhance the reading experience.

Notice that the African American originated slang interjection "Word" is translated above as "oui" [yes]. "Word" does mean "yes" but it's an intensification of "yes" and means "I definitely agree with what you are saying".


What "Ain't A Ceiling" Means
The following comment was written in response to a French viewer's request for an explanation of what this poem/song means:

Jill is basically speaking from the perspective of black women to black men who fret over the prejudice black people face in America. She's saying that: 1) black women too have an understanding of the struggles of the black race; 2) the history of American slavery does still hold black people back and; 3) if our ancestors can overcome through sincere effort, so can we.

Its VERY powerful and wonderfully sung too!

Hope this helped!
-keepthefaith27; 2010;
I have also seen this poem's title given as "The Sky Ain't A Ceiling". Those words are near the end of this poem.

I've read and often recited the saying "Reach for the sky and you'll hit the ceiling". I interpret that saying to mean that if you set your goals high you'll succeed more than if you set limited goals. My sense is that this saying probably inspired the title & the ending words of this Jill Scott poem.
The "Sing it, girl" comment in this video
Here are several comments from about the woman in the audience who shouted "Sing it girl" near the beginning of Jill Scott's performance (Note these comments don't all follow each other.)

"sing it girl! LMAO

why does someone always do that?
-martitz548; 2010
[Editor: LMAO=Laugh My Ass Off]
lol as an artist its great when someone does that. sends you good energy! ;-)
-venus3003 in reply to martitz548; 2010
[Editor: lol=laugh out loud]

aside from the poem itself, thats my favourite part hahaha
-ourouc; 2010
That women who screemed out "sing it girl" runied a moment of perfect bliss!

yusuf1608; 2012

I disagree. This is part of black culture, call and response. Black culture is interactive.
-PatsBooks in reply to yusuf1608; 2010

Why that program was called "Def Poetry
It's called Def Poetry because it was created by Russell Simmons who is one of the founders of Def Jam Records. He also created Def Comedy Jam.
-sazz419; 2011
"Def" is a 198os African American originated slang word that is a clip (shortened form) of the word "definitely". Something that is "def" is definitely the real thing, something that is excellent, great, cool.

"Most definitely" is a African American originated vernacular saying that predates & almost certainly inspired the slang term "def". Perhaps not coincidentally, the host of "Def Poetry" was the Hip Hop artist whose stage name is "Mos Def".

Click for information about vocalist, song writer, spoken word artist, actress Jill Scott.

Click for information about the television show Def Poetry (Def Poetry Jam)

Thanks to Jill Scott for composing and performing "Ain't A Ceiling". Thanks also to those whose transcriptions and comments are reposted in this post. Thanks to the uploaders of these videos.

Finally, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.


  1. Nice post.Music and translation is shown to be a fascinating area to explore, not only for specialized translators as well as for researchers in translation studies, cultural studies, media studies and musicology.I might say that having music translated on French translation or in any languages is far good to be one of the samples that beginners on translation to be practiced.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      I believe that translating a song would be difficult for those who aren't very familiar with the culture from which the song comes since many songs include vernacular sayings and words & phrases often have multiple meanings.

      That said, I hope that there are more good translations of songs online.