Run It Back: ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’ Proved That Albums Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Still Be Classics

04.26.18 4 months ago

Uproxx Studios / Columbia Records

Run It Back is a retrospective review of classic or game-changing hip-hop releases whose style and sound still resonate with listeners in the modern, streaming-driven era. Hip-hop has always been a forward-facing, youth-oriented culture, but it’s also deeply informed by the past. This is our way of bridging the gap, paying homage to rap’s roots while exploring how they still hold relevance today.

“It’s funny how money changes situations…”

The first line spoken by Lauryn Hill on her seminal debut, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill may just be the album’s most profound.

That’s an accomplishment. Lauryn Hill’s first (and to date, only) album is full of gems and nuggets of wisdom that bear revisiting.

However, with the album’s 20-year anniversary rapidly approaching, revisiting it can be dangerous. Without the filter of rose-tinted lenses, in the wake of #MeToo and Cardi B and Tumblr feminism, it can sound very much like a product of its time.

Some of its advice is… problematic, to be generous. Some of Lauryn’s raps read less like urgent missives from the future and more like inside-out, hotep logic. Yet, in the end, the music itself holds up, the legend, though tarnished, remains intact. The emotion, the stories, the auspicious lyrical high points all hold true.

Though revisiting a beloved favorite with a critical eye, 20 years of hindsight, and a new social context can often be anathema to its continued enjoyment, somehow, improbably, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill lives up to its classic status and is, if not just as good as it was in 1998, just as influential, just as informative, and just as critical to understanding Ms. Hill herself, the world she lived in, and just how much or little the world has changed since then.

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