In May, I took a Bucket List trip to Denver, Colorado to see Khalid in concert at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. While I was waiting for the show to start, I saw the image above flash on a screen promoting a concert in September.
“The Miseducation of Lauren Hill 20th Anniversary Tour”, the screen said. What???
Ms. Lauryn Hill, and specifically “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, changed my life. In a previous blog post, I named it one of three most-influential albums of my life thus far:
The Fugees’ album “The Score” was one of my first tastes of hip-hop. I loved it, so when Lauryn Hill debuted her solo album, I was all over it. And wow. I would venture to say this album has had the most impact on me, musically, in my life thus far.
This was a popular one, selling 1 million copies in its first month (8 million copies in 4 years), and it remained in the top charts for 81 weeks. At the time, Lauren Hill was an icon, and her album was everywhere – even later being placed on several “Best Album Ever” lists.
But in 2000, Hill basically disappeared from the public eye, and stayed hidden for nearly four years. To this day, anytime I see her on TV, I’m shocked. I know that a lot of artists describe an album release as having a child, and she also had a REAL child, after her album release… and I think that album was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
Regardless, I respect her tremendously, and frankly, I don’t know where I’d be without “Ex-Factor”.
I LOVED “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” – despite the fact that I was in 8th grade and she was singing about things I knew nothing about at the time: abusive relationships, abortion, paving the way, and maintaining your values as a woman when society pressures us otherwise.
And yes, Ms. Hill did disappear from the public eye. I didn’t know it then, but even though her album received loads of accolades and awards (including Grammy’s, Billboards, MTV, and Vh1, among others) – it was the first hip-hop album ever to win Record of the Year at the Grammy’s, but it also received harsh criticism – people saying she didn’t even write the lyrics.
These musicians sued Ms. Hill and she settled for $5 million. Rumors swirled that she was racist, and that she’d lost control, mentally. In the few interviews she did, she said she felt trapped by fame, not being able to go public places. Her level of success was rare in those years.
…Which is why I was so shocked when I saw the screen saying she was back on tour. I knew I had to go because she may never tour again. So I looked to see where she was stopping on the tour, and Sugar Land was the closet option. Done and done!
After I bought my ticket, I dug through my remaining collection of CDs – those so meaningful I couldn’t get rid of them. I still have my original disc of “Miseducation”, but when I tried to play it in my car, most of the songs skipped. So, I got a new, digital copy, that I’ve been listening to. I still love all of the same songs I did 20 years ago, and listening to “Zion” gives me chills.
A month or so ago, Ms. Hill was in the news – a jazz musician went on a popular radio show and told the host (on air) that she didn’t write the lyrics to her album, that she only played different arrangements of those songs because she didn’t have the rights to the original versions, and he also noted a time when he auditioned for her and she demanded he refer to as Ms. Hill, among many other allegations.
Ms. Hill responded to him publicly, in an essay that addressed many of the rumors that have swirled around her for years – you can read it here.
I do not hate white people. I do, however, despise a system of entitlement and oppression set up to exploit people who are different. I do loathe the promotion and preservation of said system at the expense of other people, and the racist and entitled attitudes it gives rise to. The lengthy history of unfairness and brutality towards people of color, especially Black people, has not been fully acknowledged or corrected. The expectation is for us to live with abuse, distortion, and deliberate policies, meant to outright control and contain us — like we’re not aware of our basic right to freedom. I resist and reject THESE ideas completely. Like many Black people, I work to reconcile my own generational PTSD. I do my best to Love, pursue freedom in body, Spirit and mind… and to confront.
Throughout the essay, Ms. Hill reminded readers that she is a mother of six, she paved the way for women in hip-hop and R&B (many artists, male and female, list her as one of their top inspirations), and of her groundbreaking past with The Fugees.
While I felt that she didn’t owe this explanation to anyone, it made me love and respect her so much more. This is a woman that was, and still is, before our time. I’m grateful that her art set the stage for me – for the music I listened to and to help me understand some of the things I’ve faced in my life.
So, tonight is the concert, and well, I don’t really know when the last time was that I was THIS excited. I have no idea what to expect (I’ve never seen her live before), what the crowd will be like, heck, I don’t even know what I’m going to wear yet. But I’m looking forward to living in her world for a little bit.
Miscommunication leads to complication
My emancipation don’t fit your equation
I was on the humble, you on every station
Some wan’ play young lauryn like she dumb
But remember not a game new under the sun
Everything you did has already been done
I know all the tricks from bricks to kingston
My ting done made your kingdom wan’ run
Now understand “l-boogie’s” non-violent
But if a thing test me, run for mi gun
Can’t take a threat to mi new born son
L’s been this way since creation
A groupie call, you fall from temptation
Now you want to ball over separation
Tarnish my image in your conversation
Who you gon’ scrimmage, like you the champion?
You might win some but you just lost one