In Defense of Lauryn Hill

The world is finally fed up with rapper/singer/CP Time enthusiast, Lauryn Hill. Citing she has “difficulty channeling her energy with time,” Ms. Hill apologized to her fans after being welcomed to boos at Atlanta’s Chastain Park over the weekend.  Now everyone wants to come at her neck.  At this point, a late Lauryn Hill is a part of the experience…I would feel slighted if I went to her concert and she was punctual.

I understand the frustration with Lauryn Hill.  Since August 25, 1998, I have been beyond disappointed in her.  Since she stepped into the cypher and out-rapped Sketch and Frank-ay (Haaaay-Hoooo!) in Sister Act 2, we all knew she was a true one-of-one.  Going toe-to-toe with EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) award winning Whoopi Goldberg, she stole the show in every scene.  Somehow I-we all-knew there would be more of her.

In 1994, I met Lauryn Hill backstage at a Gerald Levert concert in Baltimore.  The Fugees were the opening act in which my father-a keyboardist for Gerald-said they had the smallest room on every stop.  She humbly took the time to chat with my sister and I, two nine year olds, who were fans that kept calling her “Rita.”  In 30 years of being around musicians-legendary and amateur-Lauryn Hill was the nicest of them all.

In 1996, The Score  changed my life.  She bodied her two cameos on Wyclef’s 1997 solo debut, The Carnival (“See the serpent play tricks/run game like the Knicks/build you up just to lose the championship/”).  “If I Ruled the World” and mere adlibs on Cypress Hill’s “Boom Biddie Bye Bye (Remix) built anticipation for the greatest hip hop album of all time: Lauryn Hill’s solo album…so I thought.

The first single for Miseducaion was “Lost Ones,” and “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” followed shortly after.  She was primarily spitting bars and I was pleased.

I had to wait an extra two weeks after the release date for Columbia House to ship the album to my house (Remember those days?!).  By the time I received my copy, “Ex Factor” was the new single; and I expected her to do so, a la “Killing Me Softly.”

I listened to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and felt hoodwinked by the first two singles.  To this day, I REFUSE to listen to “Every Ghetto, Every City,” just to say I have yet to listen to Miseducation in its entirety.  You could have scientific evidence that it is the greatest album of all time and I still wouldn’t.  At thirteen, that evening in September ’98 was when I learned “do not have expectations.”

In the past forty-eight hours, think piece after think piece have cited many of Rita Louise Watson’s faux-pas without looking past the surface.  Yes, being on time is a given when working in the music business.  However, what we love about Lauryn’s artistry is ultimately what has been her tragic flaw.

Social media has made everyone a critic or  writer.  People opine with little-to-no context or experience in the entertainment business.  Because I own the Sister Act 2 DVD, I know that Lauryn Hill and other cast members had a high school graduation ceremony onset because they missed their own.  When we were first introduced to Lauryn, she was sacrificing milestones of her youth for the sake of our entertainment.  If it wasn’t for Salaam Remi’s remix of “Nappy Heads,” Ms. Hill could have been back in Newark, NJ and we’d all wonder “What happened to that girl who played Rita?”

Blunted on Reality flopped and Columbia Records gave The Fugees a minimal budget for their follow-up.  For those who don’t know, often a second album is a chance to recoup the record company’s financial losses from the first.  Clef, Pras, and Lauryn used their cash advance to build a studio and created an album no one expected to sell 17 million copies.

L-Boogie was only twenty-years old and fell in love with her band-mate.  Things got complicated.  After heartbreak, she regrouped, fell in love again, gave birth to a son, channeled it into her creative outlet, and used her platform for others to see themselves in her pain.

What was your life like at twenty-two years old?  More than likely, it was full of ideals and shit had yet to get real.  Yes, Miseducation is a masterpiece that deserves all of its accolades.  Lauryn Hill made an album years above her cognitive, emotional, and spiritual state…even if it is the tales a side-chick.

Because Lauryn sold priceless artwork, the listening public clamored for new music.  People wanted to continue to grow up and with her.  In 2002, Hill released the Unplugged 2.0 album and a couple of singles after.  The Fugees attempted to reunite in 2005; both Pras and Wyclef blamed Lauryn for no album or tour coming to fruition.  Since then, Lauryn has spent eleven years being late to shows and did a bid for not paying taxes (I wanted write her while she was in jail.  But I had a problem channeling my energy into remembering; my heart was in the right place).

At forty years old, Lauryn Hill looks weathered.  She sacrificed her youth for the sake of us.  People are irate because they spent their hard-earned money to see her live.  She has been saying to her fans  “I have given y’all my life,” and all people care about is “When you gonna give us more?”

Hurt people hurt people.  The jilted lover has become the heartbreaker that we, the people, keep giving chance after chance, hoping that things will be different.  For the heartbroken, the love they receive is never enough.  Often, this creates a self-absorbed bubble one lives in; impervious of how their actions affect others.  After nearly 20 years of justifying and hoping for the best, the inevitable breakup has commenced.

Give “Ex Factor” a listen…Lauryn Hill has become the Wyclef she once sang about.


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