From being booed at the age of thirteen, to having the queen of rap, Nicki Minaj fall to her knees in front of her, the life and works of Ms. Lauryn Hill is a fascinating and captivating story.
Just one year after the Fugees disbanded in 1997, band member Lauryn Hill released her debut solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” (1998). 20 years later the 16-track hip-hop, neo-soul record is hailed as one of the most valuable contributions to the world of music.
For any album and artist to withstand the test of time, their work has to influence generations of future artists and albums. For example, projects like “Abbey Road” (1969) by The Beatles, “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973) by Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mack’s “Rumours” (1977) have all been sampled in other artist’s songs. These artists have influenced the albums within their genre and their lyrics have been reused or referenced within albums that have followed.
“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” has influenced post hip-hop and R&B songs far and wide. Hill’s songs have been sampled by Drake, Kanye West, Cardi B, J. Cole and a whole slew of other groundbreaking artists. Her sound has been translated into trap and new age hip-hop.
Along with lyrical and musical sampling, Lauryn Hill is endlessly referenced and name-dropped in countless songs. On “Cocoa Butter Kisses” Chance The Rapper says “Got me feeling like Lauryn Hill, miseducated, my d**k delegated”, Kendrick Lamar raps “to drive a man insane, a woman insane/ the reason Lauryn Hill don’t sing.” Kanye West seems to find Hill’s name in his mouth on three songs most notably on “No More Parties in LA” where Kanye spits the line “I was uninspired since Lauryn Hill retired.”
Eminem, Jay-Z, Migos, Logic, Smino, French Montana, Chris Brown, Christina Aguilera, Nas, Mac Miller, Gucci Mane and A Tribe Called Quest have all name-dropped Lauryn Hill within their songs, showing that she’s not just a cultural icon she’s a staple in the music industry.
In a world where Taylor Swift, Drake and other super stars seem to be swapping streaming records, Billboard chart spots and album sales, it has taken 20 years for another female rapper to claim the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 since Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing).”
In review, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is an album that is sparsely populated with features from Carlos Santana, Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo, they are the sole assisting voices, leaving the majority of the album’s vocal and creative weight falling onto the shoulders of Ms. Hill.
“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” opens with “Lost One,” a diss-track that sets the record straight about her separation with The Fugees, it’s unapologetic and at times smug. “Lost One” waists no time to feature all of Ms. Hill’s strengths, her ageless swagger, her dynamic vocal range and her ability to stand toe-to-toe with the greatest rappers of the genre.
What is there to say about the song “Ex-Factor” that hasn’t already been said? It doesn’t matter how many times one listens to it. You find yourself entranced by the voice of woman spilling her deepest thoughts and emotions to the world. Aided by a simplistic beat, the in-and-out of an organ and the most ear pleasing guitar feature I think I’ve ever heard, “Ex-Factor” is one of the absolute strongest single songs to ever be created.
Just seconds after the guitar fades from “Ex-Factor,” Ms. Hill comes with another punch in the form of the effortless hit “Zion”. This track contains yet another goose bump conjuring six minutes of Lauryn Hill giving her everything, as Carlos Santana strums smooth cords sweet enough to please even Willy Wonka.
The rest of Hill’s album continues in this fashion as most of the songs flow naturally into each other. Even if you sprayed WD-40 over this album it wouldn’t change how easily this album glides through a person’s eardrums and into their soul.
As perfect and peerless as Ms. Hill’s work is, her personal life is not without flaws and controversy. Many people wouldn’t guess that Lauryn Hill has an ego to match Kanye West’s, as personal testimony from band mates, coworkers and other artists point out she is one hundred percent aware of her status within the music community.
Recently, as a Pitchfork article points out, her musical reputation was under attack by Robert Glasper, who accused Ms. Hill of stealing music that appeared on her 1998 album.
To this she responded with: “You may be able to make suggestions, but you can’t write FOR me. I am the architect of my creative expression. No decisions are made without me. I hire master builders and masterful artisans and technicians who play beautifully, lend their technical expertise, and who translate the language that I provide into beautifully realized music.”
Her sporadic musical appearances are not without its own criticism as a writer for The Know points out “Hill was never in command of her manic, hour-long set.” He stated that she spent 25 minutes of her performance at Red Rocks motioning up and down to the sound engineer to get her sound just right as she had apparently skipped her own sound check.
Clearly her long break from music and live performances was showing, but as the Chicago Tribune reported Lauryn Hill arrived 23 minutes late to her set at the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival. After her arrival, Ms. Hill got down to business and was in full command of the stage.
After 20 years, Hill has yet to release a follow up to her flawless solo debut and most likely will not. It’s an interesting 180 on the usual way of things. For most of history, society has asked women not to speak, to stay silent and to remain in the background. But as the world cries for Hill to make more music, to give us more of herself, she turns her head and remains quiet, leaving the world to treasure every transcendent second on the historical album that has opened countless doors for so many artist to follow.
Ms. Lauryn Hill will be stopping by the Isleta Amphitheater on Sept. 24, with special guests Nas, Talib Kwell and Tierra Whack for her 20th Anniversary of “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” Tour.
Colton Newman is the photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Coltonperson.