In this second installment, Malik Crumpler continues with his nostalgic Mis-Education journey. Here he looks at the fall out from that defining album. Ironically, while the album certainly propelled Lauryn Hill to stratospheric levels of adulation, it is the negative repercussions from that album which have also ensured she remains a steady column filler within the music world. Robert Glasper’s recent left-sided attack on her career and that album (perhaps an ill-judged action considering her scathing and barbed response) just a taster of the continued media and social interest with Lauryn Hill.
Ultimately whatever the opinions it’s clear that Lauryn Hill creates debate and as Phineas T. Barnum apparently stated: ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’-she is (after all) still relevant as fuck!
DON’T FORGET YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF THE FEATURE AS WELL
The Rest Of 1998 & Beyond
For the remainder of 1998 and most of 1999, I saw Lauryn Hill everywhere, on T-shirts, tote bags, billboards, magazine covers, TV shows, movies and most importantly, Live on stage. Before she won all those Grammys, she wasn’t even the headliner, Outkast was.
In those sold-out audiences, Outkast’s fans wore Aquemini t-shirts, whereas Lauryn Hill’s fans wore her outfits, did their makeup and even did their hair the same as her. Often times, Lauryn stopped singing or rapping and let her audience roar her lyrics by themselves. Outkast’s fans appeared to be in the Players Ball (1993) video. Lauryn’s congregation, cried while they sang. Her flock uninhibitedly wailed Lauryn’s poetry admitting their deepest sorrows, anxieties and regrets as if they were in group therapy.
Her fans worshipped her for representing indestructible ‘around the way girls’ with healing relationship advice. She was the Oprah of Hip Hop Soul at the dawn of Pop Hop. Unlike todays Pop phenomenon’s, Lauryn refused the election of Pop culture to be their relationship Guru and as a result was almost martyred.
Ms. Hill kept it so real, she threw shade on all of her contemporaries and the industry that programmed them to be vicious sexists, capitalists
Ms. Hill’s influence didn’t wear off until she released Unplugged 2.0 (2002) and her martyrdom began. The album was a flop by industry standards, nonetheless, for her devoted lyrical students, 2.0 even more so than Miseducation, gave rappers another new direction. Unplugged allowed Lauryn to pioneer Rap-Folk fusion while avoiding all the conventions she damn near invented with her previous album. The majority of her 8 million + fans were not impressed.
Ms. Hill’s spiritual and psychological evolution had advanced more rapidly than the majority of her audience. When she offered transparency, urgency and honesty with her new bare bones, organic, no bullshit, lone blues singer having a rough day, approach, it was too honest for her audience. For those of us, who only looked to her for musical inspiration and lyrical innovation, not Oprahesque life advice and celebrity role modeldom, that album remains one of the greatest contributions to esoteric lyricism, the craft of transparent performances and stripped down acoustic Rap music. Not so much musically, but lyrically that album remains the most complicated and unique lyrical insights ever recorded in any genre, by any lyricists ever.
In The Kingdom Of Keep It Realdom
No matter what conspiracies or controversaries surrounded Ms. Hill since the release of The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, one thing is for certain, she never compromised herself, her family or her craft to be our heroic leader against the inevitable ills of the global corporatization of Hip Hop.
When Ms. Hill noticed that her image, her sound, her contribution was being used to globalize Hip Hop, she used 2.0 as a platform to inform us, “Don’t worship my hurt feelings.” She not only called shade on the corrupt system, but at the height of her audience idolizing Ms. Hill for keeping it so real, she even called herself out, and in doing so called her audience out too, for being fooled by her PR team and her own youthful denial. That was just too much fire and brimstone preaching for most, but for the select few, like myself and my dudes, it was the most inspiring display of Keep It Realdom, ever conveyed by a popular rapper.
Ms. Hill kept it so real, she threw shade on all of her contemporaries and the industry that programmed them to be vicious sexists, capitalists, and for doing so, like the first celebrated black American poet, Phyllis Wheatley before her, she was put to trial by vengeful, insecure men in her industry to dispute her ability to produce and write her own music. While she was drained of money and patience, many of her fans abandoned her, believing the medias portrayal of her as a convenient mad woman who lied about her creativity and individuality. It was easier for her fans and powerful men in the industry to deal with her once she’d been declared a mentally ill woman, than deal with the sharp content of her newly unpolished persona and unconventional rhymes. No one wanted any further miseducationing from Lauryn Hill.
For those of us who still support Lauryn, we salute the album from 20 years ago, but respect and cherish her continued contribution to the ancient legacy of Getting Out
Ms. Hill Vs. the audience of Lauryn Hill
Lost and confused, Lauryn Hill’s fans frantically fled to the cults of any artists that resembled the self-declared brainwashed, fake Lauryn Hill from the Miseducation era. The rise of her emulators were just what the audience craved. Early Beyoncé, India Arie, Adele, and Janelle Monae took over Lauryn’s so-called throne, along with hundreds of other artists who followed the bare thyself (but keep it sexy) blueprint of Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill instead of the rage filled, rebellious, prophetic Ms. Hill of Unplugged 2.0.
Apparently rage in Pop music is illegal unless angry, skinny, “crazy” young men do it. Case in point, Ms. Hill’s songs since Unplugged 2.0 consistently expand and innovate on the conventions of lyricism, creative content and delivery, but judging by her YouTube views, nonexistent radio play and lackluster Spotify plays, it’s like she’s an underground artist again. Why is that, exactly?
For rappers who followed Ms. Hill’s Truth By Any Means Necessary lyrical approach, such content remains not only unpopular but dismissed and avoided by the majority of Rap music audiences who seem to prefer cliché sex ballads over introspective, philosophical love songs scrutinizing metaphysical explorations into social, political, spiritual denial and corruption. Maybe Lauryn just became too deep, like the later Sly Stone, Nina Simone, Alice & John Coltrane, Michael Jackson, Amy Garvey, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz or George Clinton before her. As a result, her younger work remains her most popular and easily digestible.
You could even look at Lauryn’s earliest work as her I have a dream period, optimistic and full of expectations. Whereas her songs since Miseducation, are more Malcolm X or Amy Garvey, firmly confessing, I have a nightmare and these Social Drugs only make it worse. For some reason, no one is entertained by being told they’re Def, Dumb and blind, anymore.
Keeping all that in mind, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, was and is still all about deprogramming, and when she realized the system was using that album and herself to program young people all over the world with dreadlocked-sexiness, she called it out, and embarrassed most of her audience for being too brainwashed with sex, money and bullshit to go beyond being woke. For those of us who still support Lauryn, we salute the album from 20 years ago, but respect and cherish her continued contribution to the ancient legacy of Getting Out of all the boxes, to not only fight the patriarchy externally, but most importantly destroy their internal programming.