Before Lauryn Hill, was “Lauryn Hill”, she caught my attention as Kira Johnson, the name of her character on As The World Turns, she was one of the few black faces in a slew of white soap opera characters on television. I took notice of her then, not because I was a soap addict, I actually didn’t like soaps, but because she was a young black girl that grew up not to far from my neighborhood. Whether people realize it or not, since that time, Lauryn Hill has practically grown up in the public’s eye and under a microscope.
With the Fugees first album, Blunted on Reality, I immediately became enthralled by this chick with the raspy voice and a cadence of her own. Although, most people probably can’t remember one song from Blunted on Reality, till this day, I remember practically every word. It wasn’t until the Fugees second album, The Score, that more people took notice of the gift that Lauryn Hill was given. Sure, the group was a “trio”, but in my mind it was Lauryn Hill that stood out and was catalyst. Without Lauryn, you’d just have Wyclef yodeling & Pras standing somewhere in the background, doing whatever it was that Pras did.
After my first Fugees show, I left thinking to myself, “I can’t wait for her to drop those two and go solo”. Eventually, in 1998, she gave birth to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Miseducation quickly became every black girl’s story. A holy grail of sorts. Every story, every verse, every bar she dropped, although it was Lauryn’s story, also became everyone else’s story as well. Magazine covers, tour dates, music awards and $25million in record sales later, words like “influential” were used to describe this black girl from Jersey. Could I relate to some of the songs? Sure, but I also realized then, that her music was more about her own experiences. If she didn’t realize it then, I’m sure she realized it during her ‘hiatus’ that unfortunately, there were strangers, people that she would never meet, seemingly depending on her to give them more of her.
I’m not sure if it’s safe to say, with every rise there’s a fall, when speaking about Lauryn Hill. If the definition of fall is writing music, like her unplugged album, because it’s something that she felt needed to be said, even though everyone may not “get it” or if the definition of “fall” is starting a family and taking care of your children, then more people should be “falling” instead of ranting & raving about Lauryn Hill on the internet.
This past summer, I stood in the heat during the Rock The Bells tour when it came to Columbia, MD, anticipating Lauryn Hill’s performance. A few minutes before her start time, I was speaking with the organizers from Guerilla Union, and it wasn’t looking good. As quick as her set was put up. Her set was taken down. Peter Rosenberg, from Hot 97, amongst boos & heckling from the audience, took the stage to reassure people that the show would be going on. Unfortunately, the natives were restless & weren’t trying to hear that. All I could do was take a few sips from my water bottle, sit back down at the foot of the stage and wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, her set was back up, the band was on stage, and she came out. Her set was like the movie, fast & furious. The “classics” from Miseducation were more up tempo and nothing like the original arrangements. Was I disappointed? No. Did I feel jipped? No. Do I realize that an artists art may change over time? Yes. It’s their art. Like Bobby Brown used to say, “It’s (their) my prerogative”.
Fast forward months later. A different stage, a different show. Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Days after a blizzard. The crowd is impatient. Lauryn Hill is late. The New York Times reports that the singer was due to hit the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 8pm but did not show up until after midnight. I could only imagine the boos & disgruntled people standing and waiting. Because, I’ve been one of those people standing and waiting. People held up signs, that read, “You Just Lost One” and “This Is Insulting”. Even her keyboard player had one taped to his keyboard saying, “I was on time”, which was rightfully torn down by Lauryn after her first song.
Lauryn Hill apologized for being late, some people feel that the following statement she made was a brush off, but would they have been happier if she said nothing at all? No, people would have complained regardless. People love to complain. “I spent my entire 20s sacrificing my life to give you love. So when I hear people complain, I don’t know what to tell you. I personally know I’m worth the wait”, she told the crowd. To the keyboard player she gave these words of advice, “you trying to escape the bottles and the cups. Next time you take it, you take it like a man. We in this together, brother”.
For the complainers, I’m truly confused as to what they’re asking from her. Do you want her 6th born? Her blood? A lock of her hair? Do you expect after 12 years that an artist doesn’t change? If you read review after review about her lateness and you still pay $75 for a ticket, are you only going to see if she shows up, or are you going so that you can appreciate her music, regardless if it’s of a faster tempo? Have you ever thought about why there’s lateness from her? Being a performer with her kids in tow, I’m sure there’s countless issues that can come up. Did people fail to realize there was about 3 ft of snow in Brooklyn and New Jersey?
Lauryn Hill owes you nothing. Lauryn Hill wrote Miseducation as therapy for herself. She didn’t have any one else in mind. Too often people take it upon themselves, to idolize an artist, when they’re only human and have their fair share of issues just like anyone else. Just like my friend Danielle said today, “You all sound like a bunch of jilted lovers”. If you need someone to write a new story so you can relate it to your life, you’re probably better off doing it on your own. Lateness happens. Shit happens. Chances are, you’ve probably been to work numerous times. Go ahead & lie and say you haven’t. Also, try clowning your “boss” on their lateness with a sign saying “you were on time”. Yeah, that’ll go over well. In the meantime, some of you need to get over yourselves, and hold on to the memories of why you fell in love with an artist from the start, because god forbid they actually change or show you who they truly are.