After the breakout record The Score by the Fugees in 1996, Lauryn Hill decided to put out solo effort The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998. This record is like a meteor hitting the Earth at sonic speed. It burned through the air and left a crater so large that it is still felt today. Hill’s record is one of the rare albums that transcends time and could be released in any era and still have as big of an impact. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill had fans crying out for an equally artistic follow – up record that never really materialised. However, this record stands up so well on its own that it continues to shine bright.
Hill started recording in a studio in New York, which may explain the East Coast hip hop influence on her tracks. During this time she thought about bringing on RZA from Wu – Tang Clan to produce the record, but ultimately she produced, arranged and wrote the record herself. This was a bold step for someone’s debut solo record, but Hill would later talk about how she found it difficult to communicate her artistic vision to an external producer and felt more comfortable having ownership of the project. Moreover, she finished recording in Jamaica at Tuff Gong Records, which is the home of Bob Marley. This move mainly came about due to her romantic relationship with Bob’s son Rohan Marley and many members of the Marley family sat in on recording sessions. The end result is not only one of the most influential female hip hop records of all time, but one of the most influential hip hop records ever recorded, full stop.
The record kicks off with one of the biggest singles, Lost Ones. In this track Hill raps about losing her soul and looking for wisdom and hope. She explores issues of race, gender and class throughout the track. These themes are at the core of record and relate to the inspiration for the record’s title, which is Carter Woodson’s work The Mis-Education of the Negro. Woodson’s work is about how African – Americans are indoctrinated in order to assimilate into modern society. Feeling marginalised and speaking for social activism run throughout the record and clearly link back to this work’s impact on her life.
My favourite track picks up on the tight rhymes and beats in Lost Ones and that is Final Hour. I love this track. Hill delivers fire rhymes in a beat poetry vibe, which is complimented by jazz drums and some trippy jazz flute. She raps about money, power and the continued marginalisation of African – Americans in urban centres throughout America. Moreover, you can really hear Lauryn’s voice in this track. She is front and centre in the track and you really hear her world view. The record is the miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which unpacks her indoctrination into modern society and her attempts to break through that. Final Hour takes this thematic issue head on with power.
Above all else, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill showcases her artistic versatility. Every Ghetto, Every City highlights her R&B skills, rap talent and talent as an arranger / producer. Musically, this track moves into a tight 70s funk vibe straight from Stevie Wonder. The track itself is about how proud she is of her upbringing in New Jersey. She celebrates urban black culture by reminiscing about different musical influences, dances and pop culture she grew up with. This track highlights who she is as a person and her pride in her cultural history.
This is more than a record. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is an unbridled artistic expression. This is one of my favourite hip hop records ever made and a record that continues to have an impact on popular culture.
Listen to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill