I’m so excited to finally be writing this blog post after getting to see one of my favorite musicians, Lauryn Hill, last night!
In September of last year, I wrote about heading out to go see Ms. Lauryn Hill on her Anniversary Tour. I got my ticket after seeing an ad for the tour while I was seeing Khalid at Red Rocks.
Here’s What Happened the First Time…
When I bought the ticket, several people starting telling me about Hill’s reputation for showing up late — sometimes four hours — to concerts, putting on shows that were only 30 minutes long, or even cancelling altogether.
I defended Hill and similar artists and said they shouldn’t be kept to societal expectations — they’re artists, not retail stores. Obviously, people disagreed with me, but I’ve admired many, many artists who do things that aren’t accepted by society.
John Mayer says dumb shit to the press and is a womanizer, Justin Bieber pisses in buckets and overall acts like a jerk, Amy Winehouse was sloppily addicted, Lil Wayne has had countless near-death overdoses and has been known to arrive to the stage late, the list goes on.
If you don’t like it, don’t support them, end of story.
So, as I hopped on the interstate to head to Hill’s concert last September, I got a call from Ticketmaster: the concert was rescheduled for May 2019. Hill had the flu.
I was disappointed, sad, and I also lost all my money on an expensive hotel room in Sugar Land. May 2019 was nine months away, and I didn’t even know if she would show up.
The Iconic Lauryn Hill
I was introduced to Hill via The Fugees and their final studio album “The Score”, which was released in 1996 — I was in the sixth grade and the CASSETTE had a parental advisory label on it, so my mom had to give permission to the Sam Goody employee – ha!
“The Score” featured hits such as “Ready or Not” and “Killing Me Softly”, which were devoured by fans. The album sold 10 million copies around the world and is listed on the list of Best Albums of All Time by “Rolling Stone”.
The Fugees split in 1997 reportedly because of rockiness between Hill and Wyclef Jean, whom we’re having an affair. She went on to record “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, which was released in 1998.
It featured hits like “Ex-Factor” and “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, which showed Hill in a different light than what fans saw from The Fugees.
The album was a smash success to say the least. Over the years, it has been accredited with bringing hip-hop to the mainstream, paving the way for religion in rap, and set an example for female rap artists. “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” was the first hip-hop album to win “Album of the Year” at the Grammy’s, and Hill became the first artist to win five Grammy Awards in one night.
The album has sold more than 19 million copies around the globe and has been awards via the Billboards, American Music, and Soul Train, among others.
For me, many of the lyrics were out of my league since I was in 8th grade, but I loved the beats — I loved Lauryn’s voice. Without realizing it, she introduced me to many of the things I feel passionate about today: eradicating institution racism, women’s rights and the importance of voice.
The Public Destruction
The fame from the album heavily affected Hill, and many news outlets reported her habit of arriving late to concerts and performing in ways fans didn’t like — i.e. not playing the songs as they were composed on the album.
Hill was also sued for not giving enough credit to writers she collaborated with, and she was sentenced to jail for tax evasion.
For many years, Hill hid from the public eye.
…which is why I had to see her on THIS tour.
‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ LIVE!
After not getting to see Hill in September, I was bummed for a few days and then just sort of put it out of my mind.
In March of this year, I started reminding myself to look up the concert date and decide any plans around the trip. Sugar Land is about 2.5-3 hours away, so I’d have to get a hotel or make serious plans for a late night road trip, and possibly rent a car (my Jeep is sadly questionable for any drives longer than an hour).
I was scared to make solid plans because I was in denial — would she really show up?
But, this week, I reminded myself that Lauryn Hill has been such an influence on me (I listed her as one of three female musicians that have shaped me, including Amy Winehouse and Alanis Morissette) that she deserved a second try, and I had to find out what her live performance would be like for myself.
So, I rented a car with plans to drive to Sugar Land and back in one day, tossed a few soda waters and a can of spicy peanuts into the temporary Nissan, and headed out.
When I got to the venue, there was nearly no one there. I parked, and was feeling frustrated that this entire thing just seemed so sketchy — no reminder emails about the concert, no marketing, no talk about it on social media… I felt out-of-touch.
But, I stuck to my plan and went into the venue around 7:15 — my ticket said 8pm on it. I got a tour t-shirt and found my seat next to a pair of sisters who were excited to welcome me into their conversations.
I asked them if they thought Hill would show up on time and they hoped she would because of bad weather expected later.
Around 8:10, a series of DJs entertained the crowd (which was sparse). I didn’t particularly enjoy the DJs, but I appreciated the effort. The 3rd DJ introduced Lauryn Hill and her band and backup singers onto the stage around 9:30 pm.
Immediately, Hill addressed the crowd, thanked us for coming and supporting her album, and she got right into “Everything is Everything”.
Between songs, she told stories about her musical influences and continued to thank us for supporting her. She found ways to add “Houston” into many of her songs, and although some of the arrangements were slightly different, they mostly sounded like they are on the album.
She performed “Ex-Factor”, “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”. When she performed “Forgive Them Father”, the screens behind her played news coverage of innocent black men being killed by police, which nearly brought me to tears.
She also performed “Killing Me Softly” and “Ready or Not” and I WAS DEAD. Never, ever in my life would I have thought I’d get to hear that song live. Wow.
At the end of the show, she thanked us again, and stayed for several minutes to shake fans’ hands.
Addressing the Rumors
In August of last year, Hill took to her blog to address many of the rumors that have followed her over the years: that she didn’t write the songs on “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, that she hates white people, that she’s difficult to work with, and that she’s late to concerts.
Although I felt like she didn’t owe an explanation for any of it, I respected her choice. She wrote that she did write the songs on the album, and she paid a $5 million settlement to the writers she collaborated with.
People said she sang songs differently live because she couldn’t legally sing them in their original form. Hill debunked this and said she’s been singing the songs for 20 years and wants to sing them differently now. She explained that she is often late because she is working with her band to create and perfect those arrangements.
For starters, 9:30 to me wasn’t arriving late. I have been to likely more than 50 concerts in my life and the ticket time NEVER reflects the time an artist is expected on stage. Usually, that is a warm-up act.
She also played much longer than 30 minutes (it was around 90 minutes) and it was not a half-assed show at all. There were lights, video accompaniments, and I loved how much she talked to the crowd. Her voice sounded fantastic.
It was very, very apparent that she takes control in how these shows run. She was conducting each song with her hands and would speak to band members between songs to adjust the sound and timing. I’m sure it comes across as bitchy, but I appreciate the fact that after all this time, she cares so much about how the songs sound and the experience the fans are having.
All of this to say, I was a little disappointed in myself for even letting the opinions or experiences of others influence me. How dare I think that Lauryn Hill was going to do me dirty!
She showed up, ready to show us how it’s done and it was worth all of the driving, the money, the planning, whatever. This is the second time in the last year that I’ve realized you’ve just go to experience things for yourself. If I’d have stayed home thinking it would get canceled or be sub-par, I would have gone my whole life thinking Hill was a flake.
For the fans that have had that experience, that’s a bummer.
But there’s all sorts of different artists out there — ones that are pushed on stage right at 8 pm, and they’ll sing the songs just like they are on the album, they won’t say hello or the name of your city, and you’ll go home having just as fun of a time.
For me, I say Long Live the Iconic Ms, Lauryn Hill!