No one can deny the influence Ms. Lauryn Hill has had on the music world. Her debut solo effort, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was more than just a brilliant introduction to the woman’s depth. It was a sparkling moment in time when music held an earnest sincerity. However, even then Ms. Hill had a spirit that seemed to fly higher than most.
First single “Doo Wop (That Thing)” is probably one of the most enchanting pieces of music to come out of the 90s, the album itself surpassing even the first and only from her iconic group the Fugees. The video therein is even more fantastic, the audience able to compare and contrast differing styles of musical excellence in order to take in one profound lesson: be very careful with your heart and your body. The vulnerability and honesty in the lyrics are illustrated with simple profundity in the split-screen MV. Another facet of the video that most don’t notice or care to comment on is the fact that Hill was six months pregnant while shooting this video — more just a coincidence of timing, but the poignancy of the lyrics and her state at the time shouldn’t be swept aside.
No matter what the circumstances surrounding the video, it is a brilliantly artistic piece that stands as one of the most interesting to come at the tail end of the 90s.
What does one say about Lauryn Hill without becoming redundant? Indeed, the list of superlatives to describe this woman range from simple respect to exorbitant idol worship. It’s not hard to understand why. But I believe the highest show of respect is when words fail to readily come to mind.
That’s how I feel about “Ex-Factor”, an ode to the loss and painful recovery of one falling out of love with the addiction that took her autonomy over her feelings and stripped it away as if it were papier-mâché. There’s nothing left to say. Just listen and feel.
Every once in a while an artist comes along that drastically changes the landscape of sound, the very way we interpret the movement of music. In 1998, Lauryn Hill brought us light in a way we’d never experienced it. She gave us something that fell beyond the parameters of “new” and became unidentifiably beautiful.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the pinnacle of years of maturation, heartbreak, and rebirth. L-Boogie became a goddess of Hip-Hop and responded to the onslaught of sugary sweet pop with her own brand of mysticism. Coming out of the Prodigal Son of Hip-Hop groups in the 90s (The Fugees), Lauryn expanded her vocal and lyrical versatility on her own. She coupled the scope of her life experiences with the continued growth of students in a public school, discussing love as if they’d felt the sensations of that enigmatic rose.
With an album title that is a nod to the continued institutionalised racism highlighted in W.E.B DuBois’ The Miseducation of the Negro, there’s no doubt that Lauryn’s intent was to raise eyebrows and consciousnesses to a level that they’d strayed far from for the better part of 30 years.
The album opens with a bell, signifying that school is now in session. From that first blaring ring, we’re plopped right back into the classrooms, dusty and dim, smelling of youth and chalk dust. The teacher is taking attendance. The very last name he calls out doesn’t respond. “Lauryn Hill. Lauryn Hill. Lauryn Hill…” fading suddenly into a thumping, yet sparse, beat, through which Lauryn’s voice strums.