It’s hard to believe that an album can turn 20, when it sounds as fresh as the day it was born.
On this day, 25th August 1998, Ms. Lauryn Hill released her debut and thus far only solo studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia Records).
Following her years with hip-hop group Fugees (also featuring Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel), Hill, born and raised in New Jersey, used every ounce of her creative intelligence to curate something that would not only go on to win Grammys, or receive acclaim from critics and peers alike, but would serve as an educative tool for (but not limited to) her people – hip-hop in its truest sense, and at its most important.
Broad was the range of topics covered, and it just goes to show how age does not equate to experience. Hill, then 23 years of age (and pregnant with her first child during the writing and recording of the album), was sharing lessons learned from love and relationships, as on “Ex-Factor”, “Used to Love Him” and “Doo Wop (That Thing)”; admonishing those in the music business in the quest for edifying hip-hop among other things on “Superstar”; and reflecting on spirituality, life, and honest living through the anthems “Lost Ones”, “Everything is Everything”, “To Zion”, “Final Hour”, and “Forgive Them Father”.
She pretty much touched on everything, while doing everything – producing, singing, rapping, songwriting. “You can’t match this / rapper slash actress” – she wasn’t kidding. Let’s not forget she had a role alongside Whoopie Goldberg in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993) (I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t like that film).
Interspersed with interludes that listened in on a class of adolescents while they discussed love, and incorporating the genres R&B, reggae and soul, the texture that Hill achieved was rich, aided also by features from prominent musicians and artists in D’Angelo, Mary J. Blige and Carlos Santana. The weight of her words, positivity and artistic intent proved The Miseducation to be the consummate project – in the eyes of artists from many disciplines, and people from all walks of life.
For years we’ve been saying how crazy it is that apart from the live album, MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002), and the odd single release, Hill has only put out one official album. Maybe if it were any other artist and any other album, we’d be clamouring for more, labelling it a great shame and a huge disappointment in the music industry… But somehow, Lauryn managed to make herself one of the few artists who have ever lived to make one album that suffices. It’s flavourful, full of truth and spiritual nutrition. It’s soul music, music for the soul – soul food. One helping of that and you don’t need anything else.
And that’s not to say that Hill won’t ever make a follow-up. I don’t doubt that she’s had ideas or plans to make one, and if she ever decides to, a second album would be much appreciated – Lauryn, we are ready! But at the same time, she already gave us so much, that it is enough.
Today is a good day. It marks 20 years since this remarkable woman gave music lovers not just something to feel; but many messages to believe in. That we can still believe in.
Catch Ms. Lauryn Hill on the remaining dates of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill World Tour 2018. More info at mslaurynhill.com.
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