In 1998, I had a bad breakup. Breakups are rarely easy but this one was particularly difficult because not only was I heartbroken but also, my ego was crushed to its core. I was too proud to cry on anyone’s shoulder so I sulked for longer than I wish to admit and found therapy via retail (thank you, Armani Exchange 1998 Summer collection) and via music. A lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot of Marvin Gaye, a lot of Morrissey and the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, on constant replay.
“Tell me who I have to be, to get some reciprocity” sang Lauryn on “Ex-Factor”, one of the anchors of her now classic opus. The song nursed me through the pain. And just like that, Lauryn became my voice and that of all those who couldn’t relate to the other contemporary MCs and songstresses. Those who like me, wanted melody, rhythm and beats with their declarations of love, cautionary tales and angst. Lauryn’s lyrics made it impossible to stick her with a genre label. She was MC, she was Hip Hop. She was Soul, she was Funk. She was Rock and she was definitely Roll.
But then, Lauryn fell off the wagon and you know the rest. Now post hiatus, post bad reviews, pre new album … Lauryn decided to go back on tour. The material was old but classic and the delivery was fresh and mature. Since she last released an album, she’s had to fight for her marriage while raising her children. She’s also had to fight greedy music execs while trying to find inspiration. She’s had to realize that time didn’t wait for her & that there were many ready & willing to knock her off the chart podiums. And yet here she was on stage last night, ready to school the young’ins, showcasing her musicianship and reminding us all that yes, she was worth the 2-hour delay. The show was both communion and exorcism for her but also for us who had been praying for her return.
You can’t compare Lauryn Hill to anyone nor should you. She’s unique. As was a Dinah Washington or a Nina Simone. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is not just a classic album: it’s a book of short stories put to incredible music. You have new stories, Lauryn. Lay them down on tracks, get yourself good PR and come back for real. We need you.