It would be a feat for an average musician to confine spirituality, love and heart break, motherhood, adolescence, childhood and philosophy; all in just 70 minutes of musicality. Lauryn Hill isn’t your average artist.
Released 19 years ago under Ruffhouse Records and Columbia Records, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill went on to sell more than 8 Million copies and won her 5 of the most coveted Grammy Awards. The album explores relatable themes; one factor that’s credited for its relevance almost 2 decades later. In a 2013 commentary with XXL, rapper Nas acknowledges in his own words that the album “checked me as an emcee because she was pure. There was no chains, no fancy cars, she checked us on all of that. On songs like “Superstar” and “Doo Wop”, she talked to us, she went into who we were as men and women. And that was needed at the time and to this day”. To attract the fancy of old timers like Mary J Blige, who describes it as “one of the most incredible albums ever made”, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is beyond doubt Miss Hill’s Magnum Opus. Throughout the album, she squirms her way through the male dominated scene, with the aid of so much soul, wisdom, class and femininity laced with confidence and the final result is an LP that won’t get dusty soon on many record shelves.
The intro is a typical class roll call. Ras Baraka; a New Jersey Teacher, poet as well as politician plays the stint he knows best, that of a teacher and when he calls Lauryn Hill’s name, she turns out absent. A move that probably was inspired by the title “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. Before you conceive, why Lauryn skipped class, she hits your dome with the lines “It’s funny how money change a situation…” in the second track. The 94.91 bpm rate of the beat was typical of that time’s production tempo. You can’t help but boogie along to the boom bap sound as she laces wise lyrics touching on philosophical matters including a reference of the universal laws, karma, and reincarnation. She further condemns self-righteousness and greed echoing the book of Mark 8:36 which warns against gaining the world while losing one’s soul, a scripture quoted by Bob Marley as well. Reggae has a profound influence on Miss Hill’s music, evidenced by a few lines of patois in the same song. “Lost Ones” is not only a rhythmic tick, but also a morally challenging piece. Class interludes separate tracks all through the album. The first interlude on love dovetails the next song; Ex-Factor, whose main theme is heartbreak. The song pulls the rag off Lauryn Hill’s vulnerable side. If the slow, mellow instrumentals bring to mind Wu Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple’’, your ear is precise as it samples the Wu’s hit.
‘’Ex-Factor’’ is followed by a similarly slow, soothing ‘’Zion’’, a dedication to her son-Zion. It explores motherhood, abortion, love and protection only a mother understands. Zion, is Patois for the Promised Land. Rohan Marley (Bob Marley’s son) is the father of Lauryn Hill’s son, Zion. You can put two and two together. Just like Ex Factor, Zion is slow and soothing with a bpm of 80. The melancholic tone and lyrics are a tear jerker and one should expect the similar sound (Which I find more of Neo Soul than Hip Hop) in various songs such as ‘’When it Hurts so Bad’’, ‘’Superstar”, “Nothing Even Matters”, ‘’The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’’ and ‘’Tell Him’’. However, in between, she snaps back to her days as the one third of the Hip Hop trio, The Fugees, which were marked with aggressive lyrics, bits of braggadocio and street confidence. In “Final Hour” for instance, she comes in with the line “I treat these like my theses, well written topic broken down into pieces, I introduce then produce words so profuse it’s abuse how I juice up this beat”. One can’t help but marvel at her wordplay and how she manages confidence without having to sound materialistic or accentuate her sexuality. It would be a disgrace to skip “Doo Wop (That Thing)” which is full of jewels, especially for young boys and girls. It encourages vigilance against the slick boys and girls known as fuckboys/girls these days. It does so over a boom bap beat synonymous with the nineties and inextricably laced lyrics. The track list takes you through a melodious journey of childhood nostalgia, reminds you of your first love and how it ended. It also emphasizes on the need for maturity; especially spiritual maturity. Needless to say that “Zion” the essence of motherhood in a tear jerking mannerism. The guest appearances don’t disappoint. With D’Angelou’s vocals in “Everything is Everything”, over a John Legend piano beat, you’d be damned if anything went wrong. I find it queer when bonus tracks sound better than the rest though. Or maybe it’s just me.
Simply put, Lauryn Hill displays Bob Marley’s wisdom, Maya Angelou’s lyricism and Diana Ross’ splendor without veering off the alluring person that she is. Definitely, the Epitome of femininity. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill might teach you more about life than your school lecture could. Ironic the title right?