Social media is in a frenzy, the capricious chanteuse Lauryn Hill has announced she is gearing up for her 20th anniversary “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” tour. Riding high off the success of her latest collaboration with artist Drake who sampled “Ex-factor” for his latest hit “Nice for What.” It would appear as though Lauryn Hill is regaining respect and momentum as her influence continues to blossom. Is hip-hop’s hierophant finally getting the respect she deserves as an intellectual genius, musical icon, and cultural phenomenon? It seems that somewhere along the way many of us had forgotten that before there was #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackGirlMagic, this black girl was sharing her life and using her magic to sing black diamonds and pearls. Her earthy yet celestial voice tugged at our heartstrings because we know if Ms. Hill did really rule the world she would have freed us all.
However, the case of Lauryn Hill is a peculiar one ripe with complexities and paradoxes. Hill is unique because she was an underground artist who was catapulted into mainstream success as the face and voice of the diamond-selling hip-hop trio “The Fugees“. Hill’s lyrics would focus on the black experience, racism, sexism, and politics; while deconstructing the current social paradigm. With the help of her natural star power, they would experience major commercial success winning 3 Grammy’s. Behind this success, there was still turmoil as Lauryn herself spoke of frustration with the lack of respect shown to her opinion as a woman and would often, only, be asked in interviews, “what color lipstick are you wearing?” Misogyny, legal drama and matters of the heart all led to The Fugees’ demise with the bandmates going their separate ways.
But, hell hath a no fury like this lyricist scorned. Hill kept her eye on the sparrow singing and rhyming her way into musical history with her solo album devoid of Pras and Wycelf, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill“, a record that would substantially change music through its organic structure and quality of genuine content. The album would go on to reach diamond-selling status and win 5 Grammy’s in one night, a record at the time. Lauryn Hill had the world in her hand yet somehow she felt empty. The quantum-diva found herself dimmed under the limelight and the lack of respect for her artistic license. Some say she cracked under pressure, that her high-profile relationship with Rohan Marley, the son of Bob Marley, was the source of her stress. She became a recluse and never officially followed up “The Miseducation”. She later went on to release an “Unplugged” album via MTV where she exposed her raw emotions, discussed her relationship with God, and further deconstructed the perils of society. Deeming herself a Hip-Hop Folk singer the album was met with both critical acclaim and disdain. Although certified platinum “Lauryn Hill: Unplugged” seemed dismal compared to the diamond status of her previous albums.
At times it looked as though her career would never regain its luster, but somehow Ms. Lauryn Hill manages to remain in-demand. She treats her performances and intellectual property as though she’s ordained to maintain the concept of artistry. Indeed hip-hop’s unorthodox priestess can be captivating and to some and repelling to others. This anomaly was on full display on May 7, 2016, in Atlanta, Ga when she pulled what some consider to be, her most legendary stunt: unapologetically showing up hours late to a scheduled performance. She was set to take the stage at the Chastain Amphitheater located in the more fiscal neighborhood of Buckhead, notorious for quite the conservative noise ordinance. Chastain promptly pulls the cord on any musician at 11pm sharp. Ms. Hill wouldn’t take the stage until after 10pm that night, and she emerged to a mixed crowd of both disgruntled fans and awestruck zealots. Evoking an air of entitlement and not one for remorse, she will apologize for your inconvenience, but for her process. Fans and critics exploded onto the internet with either scathing commentary or glowing soliloquies about Lauryn and her eloquent response to her unabashed lateness.
Ms.Hill manages to defend herself with communicative wonder using her intellectual prowess to dance her way around ownership. She pleads a not so humble case for atonement under her human condition suggesting she is not a machine that can just “flip a switch.” Challenging the commodity of business against the purity of art Lauryn has been quoted saying that “My challenge is to align my time and my energy.” It is no secret she feels she is worth the wait and having seen her live on a few occasions I can’t say that I disagree. Though some believe that she is an artist who struggles with focusing her energy and mustering up the strength to deliver an experience. Others vehemently attack her lack of respect for people’s time and disregard for professionalism.
Until recently Lauryn Hill’s shows were few and far in-between, and her signature statement has been being, at times, unfashionably late…no matter how stylish her outfit. However, once on the stage rarely are there any complaints. Her shows can range from medleys of old hits with live musicians to a set of covers featuring just her with her guitar. Be you fan or foe of the enigmatic Ms. Hill her past transgressions will no doubt weigh in as you buy your tickets for the upcoming anniversary tour. However, I do think the odds are ever in our favor, and this is an unusually pristine time to witness this living legend. Hill’s performances lately have been punctual and high energy with renewed marvel. It seems as though she has restored faith both in herself and in her body of work. None the less the question still remains will Ms. Lauryn Hill be ready or, not?