Dig of the month: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

You’ve found yourself in the little corner of ByBase, where we regularly shine spotlight on a classic album, from the musical and cultural perspective, that we consider highly essential and always somehow relevant to the month we currently find ourselves in.

May 26th is the birthday of Lauryn Noelle Hill a.k.a. L-Boogie, former third of The Fugees, one of the most important and most talented MCs to ever bless the mic. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her first and only solo record is celebrating 20 years since its release this summer, so let’s dive a little bit into the background of this masterpiece and discover why it is so significant.

After the Fugees disbanded in 1997, Lauryn Hill flipped the page, opened the next chapter and released her solo debut the following year. Most of the album has been recorded in Kingston, Jamaica at the legendary Bob Marley’s own Tuff Gong studios. At this time, she was involved with Rohan Marley (Bob’s son) and became pregnant with his child (track #4 ‘To Zion’ is dedicated to him). Some of the tracks feature star appearances of Carlos Santana on guitar, piano by John Legend, love duet with D’Angelo and all alongside incredible production and arrangements that also gathered live instruments such as harps, clarinets, tampani drums, organs and strings.

This deeply personal concept album’s lyrics are touching on themes of love, heartbreak (previous relationship with Wyclef Jean), starting a family, spirituality, accepting oneself and dealing with emotional turmoils of fame, the tension and the frustration, however the bold and unapologetic realness is definitely a common theme throughout the whole music piece. She has crafted an LP that has demonstrated how to achieve enormous commercial success while still staying true to herself and what fulfills her creatively. Blending elements of smooth hip hop, soul, reggae, and neo soul, as some like to call it, the album quickly became a commercial success shooting to number one on the Billboard 200 upon its release. Won 5 Grammys out of 10 nominations, which was a new record for female artists at the time. It was also the first time a rap artist has won in any of the major Grammy categories and first Album of the Year award for a rap album in history.

On this record Hill gave a voice to the women in hip hop that was, especially in the 90s, somewhat reclined in the background to say the least.  The courage and confidence to express opinions on a personal level. Homages to this incredibly influential artist still keep resonating through music to this day. One of the most in-your-face ones are e.g. Drake sampling Ex-Factor in his recent ‘Nice For What’ single (not the first time he’s sampled L either) or Cardi B quoting Lauryn in her ‘Careful’ track. Pusha T referenced her rhymes in some of his lyrics as well and Nicki Minaj stated that this album was very formative for her as an artist and also quoted Lauryn in her senior quotes in High School.

The latest appearance of Ms. Lauryn Hill is on A$AP Rocky’s latest Testing’ album released this month and she has a 20th Anniversary tour coming up in celebration of the of her first and so far last record. It certainly is a tough one to follow but all faith is not lost and hopefully someday we’ll live to hear more from her whenever she’s ready.

“We can’t plan life. All we can do is be available to it.”
-Lauryn Hill