Lauryn Hill was Misunderstood.
Mistaken, probably. Misquoted, most likely. Misdirected. Misled. Mishandled. Yes, Yes and Yes.
That is, if you believe Lauryn… and I do.
When Ms. Hill dropped off the edge of the planet my initial reaction was brief irritation followed by a common belief she’d come back around and do right by the fans. A couple of years passed… no new material. Just an MTV Unplugged joint that had me reeling, but didn’t satiate an innate desire for a studio release.
Anger —> Denial —> Mourning.
This may seem a severe reaction to one woman’s decision to leave phenom-status success. But flash back to 1993 when Sister Act II had the whole theater goose-bumpin’ off of “Eye On The Sparrow” and “Joyful, Joyful.” Then skip forward three years to The Score when her bars smashed on both her co-Fugees, and “Killing Me Softly” became so enigmatic everyone — to this day! — can sing the ad-lib breakdown.
Now go to 1998. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
This album created a time in music – Hip-Hop and beyond – when fans formed a united front in a pre-“Hey Ya!” unanimous decision that, Yes…. Yes this shit is dope. We all liked the Motown-y “Doo Wop” video, the feel sweet “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” cover, and certainly the ability of “Ex-Factor” to take us to that time/place/relationship we loved to love to hate. You put that joint on at a party today and you’ll get a lot of two-stepping folks holding up lighters and cell phone screens… bleeding and singing their damn hearts out onto the dance floor.
Yeah, I miss Lauryn.
When I see pictures of her today, I don’t see her anymore — just like I’m sure when she looks at pictures from 1998 she doesn’t see herself. She probably sees a sad woman who was Misdirected, Misled and Mishandled by an industry that wanted too much of her; her voice, her spit, her image, her life.
But it wasn’t until Dave Chappelle fled to Africa that I understood what happened to Lauryn and why I wouldn’t get that studio album I had so desperately been waiting for. I finally saw these two extraordinary talents — at the absolute height of success — were in a limitless place of celebrity that poisons weak minds with greed and power. And while their minds stayed strong, those around them fell like dominos in an irresistible urge to bottle and control a gift. At this point I highly doubt Big Business would let them back in if they knocked, because they aren’t pliable to standard.
Now, that’s just my thoughts on why Lauryn and Dave were ripped away. And while hypothesizing makes little to no progress in the way of bringing them back, I need that justification for myself so I don’t waste any more time despising an entertainment industry that breaks the best of the best.
Her voice, fam. Her voice.
She had this whole shit by the balls. And she just left?!? Connect the dots.
This bullshit will drive you crazy if you think on it for too long. But it’s foolish to think Lauryn was the one Miseducated, when it was probably us all along.