Believe it or not, there was a time when if you compared Beyonce to Lauryn Hill, you’d be insulting Lauryn Hill.
It’s a shame that’s she’s more known now for the kinda shit like she pulled in Atlanta a couple nights ago – showing up 2 hours late and then only rocking for 30 minutes – than for how dominant she was at the height of her fame if only because it would serve as a lesson should anybody ever get to thinking that the way things are now are the way they’re always gonna be.
Remember late 90’s?
Hip Hop was a bit bloated.
D’Angelo had ushered a “Neo Soul” movement into R&B.
And there was Lauryn Hill.
She’d been on the perimeter as a member of the group The Fugees, but it was clear just from the tone of her voice the first time you heard it on “Nappy Heads” that she was just carrying those other dudes.
It was a little scary too because, chauvinist that you are, the girl was so nice, that if you were honest in your appreciation you might just hafta admit that she could be, and this, luckily, was only a “could”, but it was possible that she was better than many of the male MCs.
Shit, she might have been better than all of them.
Then you heard her singing “The Sweetest Thing” on the Love Jones soundtrack.
This was way before Drake and dual musical rapping/singing threats.
And if Drake is a “threat”, then L-Boogie was a promise fulfilled.
All at once, her voice was haunting and earthly, quieting and unsettling.
Add to that the fact that in the last genuine era of light-skinned long-haired big-booty-Black-girl female supremacy, Lauryn was dark, wore dreads and was ballerina-lithe.
And she was fucking gorgeous.
Now, need I review for you The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill?
Do you know the album?
Do you presume to read anything about our young artist without at least first having a concrete understanding of why she is absolutely necessary?
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of those albums where you’ll find a contingent that will claim each and every song on it is their personal favorite.
And the critical reception was that there were no critics.
Sadly this may have, in fact, been her artistic undoing.
Some, however, would argue – and I would grow to join them – that Voodoo was far superior, one of, in fact, the finest albums ever.
This misinterpretation masked as a lack of appreciation could have been witnessed by and subsequently scarred Ms. Hill.
Also, a “chip on your shoulder” is both an artist’s and an athlete’s best friend.
Michael Jordan bristled for 7 years before his first Chip, being labeled “only” a scorer and who knew before Miseducation if Ms. Hill could indeed carry a whole album by herself.
5 Grammys later, including Album of the Year – first ever for a Hip Hop album – and the only question remaining was, “What’s next?”
And while I can’t let Lauryn off the hook for becoming a nutcase, I will defend her with this: imagine your wildest artistic or personal dreams came true.
What would you do next?