THE FACT THAT Ms. Lauryn Hill has released just one studio album is baffling. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t want her to drop another if it can’t live up to the genius of her game-changing solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
The record’s contributions to hip-hop (as well as neo soul, R&B, and reggae fusion) are nearly impossible to top. From the soul-wrenching breakup ballad “Ex-Factor” to the always-slappable “Doo Wop (That Thing)” to the vivid nostalgia of “Every Ghetto, Every City,” I think we can officially call the harmony -heavy album a classic. In fact, I think I play Miseducation just as frequently now as I did when I stole the CD from my mom’s collection in 1998.
Though she’s only got a single studio album to her name, to me Lauryn Hill is one of the greatest living music legends. I mean, come on: In the ’90s alone, L. Boogie provided my generation with some of the most untouchable and unforgettable recordings that are still relevant today. Even outside of Miseducation, just think: Where would we be without deep cuts like “Ready or Not” by Fugees? Or “Killing Me Softly,” which never fails to kick me in the feels, despite how many times I’ve heard it? Also, Hill’s rendition of “Joyful, Joyful” is basically the only version of the Christian hymn that anyone even recognizes anymore, amirite?
Miseducation won several Grammy awards (including Album of the Year and Best New Artist), had multiple singles on the Billboard charts, and was heralded by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest albums of all time. But Hill’s career has been erratic—she withdrew from the public eye in 2000 due to the pressures of fame, but in 2001 returned to perform a new set of material for a small crowd on an MTV Unplugged special. The recording of the program became its own live acoustic album (MTV Unplugged No. 2.0) released a year later. Hill has toured sporadically ever since, but she’s known to cancel shows mid-tour and arrive at venues fatally late. (In May, Hill pulled up to her gig in Atlanta more than two hours late, blamed her driver for getting lost, and later explained that she needed time to “align her energies.” The venue cut her mic 40 minutes in to comply with its 11 pm curfew.)
Just before serving a three-month sentence for tax evasion in 2013, Hill had jumped back in the music game with her first single in a decade, “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix).” Last year she executive produced Nina Revisited... A Tribute to Nina Simone and contributed her voice to five vocal interpretations on the album, including a perfect new rendition of “Feeling Good.” Just a few weeks ago, Hill performed at the Tidal X charity concert, where she revealed new takes on old songs and even met with Nicki Minaj, who cites Hill as one of her greatest inspirations. Now Hill’s on her MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling! tour, which seeks to spotlight opening acts that represent the cultural and artistic beauty of the African diaspora (Nigerian singer/saxophonist Seun Kuti, son of Fela, will open Hill’s Portland show).
While I do pray she puts out another fantastic and timeless project at some point, I’ll die happy if Ms. Lauryn Hill simply shows up on time (and doesn’t cancel) to her Portland date. Despite all the criticisms and controversies she’s been embroiled in throughout the years, there’s no denying that whether she’s rapping or singing, Hill’s voice is one of the most moving instruments hip-hop has ever seen.