Lauryn Hill’s ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ Turns 15
Fifteen years ago today, Lauryn Hill released ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,’ a landmark hip-hop album that hasn’t lost its musical luster. ‘Miseducation’ arrived on August 25, 1998, at a time when Hill was entering the next phase in her life beyond music — motherhood.
In 1997, after the birth of her first child Zion, with boyfriend Rohan Marley, Hill began writing songs that would eventually appear on ‘Miseducation.’ The title of the album was inspired by Carter G. Woodson’s book ‘The Miseducation of The Negro’ and the 1974 film, ‘The Education Of Sonny Carson,’ about a young man’s harrowing journey into gang life.
For Hill, the term “miseducation” meant those life experiences that can’t be taught inside a classroom. “The title of the album was meant to discuss those life lessons, those things that you don’t get in any text book, things that we go through that force us to mature,” she said in a 1999 interview (via The Guardian). “Hopefully we learn. Some people get stuck. They say that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and these are some really powerful lessons that changed the course and direction of my life.”
The 14-song opus boasts an eclectic mix of sounds composed of soundbites of a classroom, drifting sounds from Kingston Jamaica, pounding hip-hop beats, 1970s soul and 1950s doo-wop.
She then bares her soul on ‘Ex-Factor,’ in which she recounts a failed relationship. “It could all be so simple / But you’d rather make it hard / Loving you is like a battle / And we both end up with scars,” she sings over a sample of Wu-Tang Clan‘s “Can It Be All So Simple.”
Another standout track is ‘To Zion,’ a soaring ballad where Hill gets remarkably candid about having her first child despite being advised not to have one for the sake of her career.
“Woe this crazy circumstance / I knew his life deserved a chance / But everybody told me to be smart, ‘Look at your career’ / They said ‘Lauryn baby use your head’ / But instead I chose to use my heart,” she sings.
The set’s No. 1 single, ‘Doo Wop (That Thing),’ is a throwback-sounding hip-pop tune, with Hill relaying self-esteem advice for both men and women. “Showing off your a– ’cause you’re thinking it’s a trend / Girlfriend, let me break it down for you again / You know I only say it ’cause I’m truly genuine / Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem. Baby girl, respect is just a minimum,” she raps.
Her soulful duet with D’Angelo on ‘Nothing Even Matters,’ is another gem on the album. Over an organ groove and infectious finger snaps, the pair croon affectionate words of love and devotion. You can also hear influences of Stevie Wonder on the endearing songs, ‘Every Ghetto, ‘Every City‘ and the title track, respectively.
The album ends on a spiritual note with the hidden bonus track, ‘Tell Him,’ a touching ballad that finds the rapper-singer reassuring that her strength will never falter because of her faith and love in God.
‘Miseducation’ went on to sell over 18 million copies worldwide. For her efforts, Hill was nominated for 10 Grammy awards, of which she won five trophies, including Album Of The Year and Best New Artist. She also graced the cover of Time magazine’s “Hip-Hop Nation” issue in February 1999, which crowned her the matriarch of the genre.
Despite the success of ‘Miseducation,’ the album was also met with some controversy over production credit.
While the album liner notes credits Hill with producing, writing and arranging the entire album, it was, in fact, a huge group effort, that included a Newark, N.J. production team known as The New Ark.
Members Vada Nobles, Rashee “Kilo” Pugh and twin brothers Johari and Tejumold Newton filed a lawsuit against Hill and her record label, Ruffhouse/Columbia, claiming that they deserve songwriting and production credit on 13 of the 14 songs on the album. They eventually settled out of court in 2001 for a reported $5 million.
Currently, Hill is sitting in a jail cell at Danbury penitentiary in Connecticut. The 38-year-old artist is almost finished with her three-month prison sentence on tax evasion charges. Her incarceration marks a dark period in her life after a string of personal problems that have included a tumultuous relationship with Rohan Marley, the father of her six children, erratic behavior at concerts and numerous other troubles.
Despite Hill’s current predicament, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ will forever be regarded as a timeless album for generations to come.
“I think that for me, I sort of acted as sort of a bridge between an older generation and a younger generation and how to put these two musical styles [old school doo-wop & contemporary hip-hop/R&B] together, to build a continuum so there wasn’t so much of a disconnect between the generations,” said Hill about the album.
“I think I made a piece of music from a sincere place and I think that sincerity has no choice but to resonate with people,” she continues. “I think that my motives were probably in the right place at the right time. And I think it resonated and spoke or represented something for a generation of people who needed that at that time.”
Watch Lauryn Hill’s Video ‘Doo-Wop (That Thing)’
Watch Lauryn Hill’s Video ‘Everything Is Everything’
Watch Lauryn Hill’s Video ‘Ex-Factor’
Watch Lauryn Hill Perform ‘To Zion’ Live at the 1999 Grammy Awards