Arguably one of the most talented music artists in the last 25 years, Lauryn Hill’s name alone brings forth memorable lyrics from the critically-acclaimed album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Nowadays, many want that same old school Lauryn Hill back, but some of her performances in the past few years have come with mixed reviews of her showing up late, not performing the songs she became famous for, or doing more talking than performing.
It’s been 20+ years since her award-winning solo album. The now 45-year-old mother of six reflects on the times when she loved creating music:
“I wanted to write songs that lyrically move me and have the integrity of reggae and the knock of hip-hop and the instrumentation of classic soul,” explained Hill. “[My engineer and I worked on] a sound that’s raw. I like the rawness of you being able to hear the scratch in the vocals. I don’t ever want that taken away. I don’t like to use compressors and take away my textures, because I was raised on music that was recorded before technology advanced to the place where it could be smooth. I wanna hear that thickness of sound. You can’t get that from a computer, because a computer’s too perfect. But that human element, that’s what makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I love that.”
Hill’s background was always filled with artistry and expressing herself. While growing up in New Jersey, Hill took acting lessons in Manhattan. She began her acting career in 1991 appearing with Jean in Club XII, MC Lyte’s Off-Broadway hip-hop rendering of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. While the play was not a success, an agent noticed her. Later that year, Hill began appearing on the soap opera As the World Turns in a recurring role as troubled teenager Kira Johnson.
She subsequently co-starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg in the 1993 release Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, playing Rita Louise Watson, an inner-city Catholic school teenager with a surly, rebellious attitude. In it, she performed the songs “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” (a duet with Tanya Blount) and “Joyful, Joyful”. Director and veteran actor Bill Duke credited Hill with improvising a rap in a scene: “None of that was scripted. That was all Lauryn. She was amazing.” Critic Roger Ebert called her “the girl with the big joyful voice.” After teaming up with the Fugees in 1994, her career took off from there.
After appearing in court for tax evasion, Hill was sentenced to three months in jail and had to attend “counseling” due to her “conspiracy theories”.
According to the IBTimes, Hill told the court: “I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them. I had an economic system imposed on me.” Furthermore, Hill also believes that artists are being oppressed by (what the article calls) “a plot involving the military and media”. Because of these statements, Hill was ordered to undergo “counseling”, on the premise that she was in some way “mentally ill.”
In 2012, Hill published an open letter describing the corruption, the oppression and the control of the music industry and her desire to escape it. In one part of the letter, Lauryn states:
“It was this schism and the hypocrisy, violence and social cannibalism it enabled, that I wanted and needed to be freed from, not from art or music, but the suppression/repression and reduction of that art and music to a bottom line alone, without regard for anything else. Over-commercialization and its resulting restrictions and limitations can be very damaging and distorting to the inherent nature of the individual. I Love making art, I Love making music, these are as natural and necessary for me almost as breathing or talking. To be denied the right to pursue it…