Yesha Callahan

The Re-education of Lauryn Hill Fans: Lauryn Hill Owes You Nothing

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”.

Lauryn Hill @ Gansevoort Park Avenue 12/31/10

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.

  1. January 2, 2011 - Reply

    Oh Lauryn, Lauryn, Lauryn. “Why didn’t you stay….”
    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  2. January 2, 2011 - Reply

    They’re lucky they get any Lauryn at all.

    • January 2, 2011 - Reply


      I wouldn’t even use the word lucky….As much of a fan I am of Lauryn Hill…I’m going to treat her as with anything else I buy online. I’m going to read reviews..and make my own judgement before I spend my money. If a bunch of people complained about a coat they brought from a store in a review online, I’m going to be hesitant about buying said coat.

  3. January 2, 2011 - Reply

    She doesn’t necessarily owe her fans anything, but being a performing artist myself you do have an obligation to be on time for shows, especially since people have paid their hard earned money to support and celebrate you. If she doesn’t want to be in the biz then she shouldn’t put herself back out there, that is her right. I personally wouldn’t buy a ticket now bc like you said she now has the reputation for being late and LAWD, Alise don’t play that!

    • January 2, 2011 - Reply

      @Naturally Alise

      I think she wants to be in the business on her own terms, which is understandable. Also, when a performer has kids in tow…which is something she’s done for the past several shows…who knows what issues go on in the background. Hell, The Roots had a late show the other day, Questlove gave it to a person who complained on twitter, but people were ok w/that? Why is there such a commotion with her? She directed her comments to a crowd of people, he directed his comment to one sole individual on twitter.

      • January 2, 2011 - Reply


        Questlove got with a fan cause they fucked up? Oh no…. Not sure of the fan got out of pocket to begin with but why should we take BS? I pay for a 8pm show & that mofo needs to start at 8.
        If not, post a notice & give me my options up front.

        • January 3, 2011 - Reply


          To be fair, Questlove did tweet during the day and at the show that they were going to be late due to the storm. Lauryn, to my knowledge, did not. And she was also late for Rock the Bells and the recent show on Saturday.

          • January 3, 2011 - Reply


            but does it make it right to go after a “fan” online..?
            no one is forcing ppl to purchase lauryn hill tickets…you’re doing it on your on free will…
            some ppl like the anticipation of a possible train wreck..

            • January 3, 2011 - Reply


              That’s the grey area of being online, especially with Twitter, where artists can now reply back or “defend” themselves. I understand both sides (him thinking he gave adequate notice, the fan thinking otherwise)
              But yeah, I’m not too much of a car wreck fan haha

              • January 3, 2011 - Reply


                Or train wreck as the case may be

  4. January 2, 2011 - Reply

    […] Speaking of Oprah, earlier this week she was honored by President Obama with the highest honor possible: the Kennedy Honors medallion. Chris Rock was asked to present to Winfrey, and made some off-color remarks. This sparked an open letter to Rock. |An Open Letter To Chris Rock Also, this week saw the kickoff of a few intimate performances by former Fugees frontwoman Lauryn Hill. She was late to two performances and snow postponed yet another. The question is, Does Lauryn owe anything to her fans? Let the debate commence. |Lauryn Owes You Nothing… Get Over Yourselves […]

  5. January 2, 2011 - Reply

    I think it is sad that she is taking advantage of the gift that was given to her. Sure, she is good enough to wait for, and, I would presume the audience is good enough to arrive on time for as well. Most of us have purchased her album (on CD and Mp3,) so what else would she like from us?
    If you pay for the album and the ticket, I believe we lived up to our end of the bargain. Respect is not a one way street.

  6. January 2, 2011 - Reply

    Well, I don;t care what she is going through & what she gave as an artist way back when cause she CHOSE to do that & get paid for it. Have your ass at the show or stop touring.
    To me, it is as easy as black & white.
    Im not going to pay 75 bucks or whatever to only wait for you to come on stage 4 hours later with some cracked out diva bullshit.
    I totally would have bounced out that bitch after at least an hour & demanded a refund.
    We as fans & consumers need to be respected. My time is money just like it is for her & anyone else.

  7. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    Actually, if you paid for a ticket to see an entertainer, putting money in her pocket and food on her table, then YES. She does owe us something. She needed to own up and not be defensive about being 4 hours late to her JOB. Fans would be forgiving if she showed humility and not false entitlement.
    Hell if I was 4 hours late for work and responding like that I would be fired with the quickness. Come on Lauryn.

  8. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    I am a fan of Lauryn Hill no matter what and I always will be but there is a certain amount of respect she lacks because she both knows but doesn’t know her reach. I know one of her MDs and he said if she died right now she would kill 2pac with how much music she has in her house that she is afraid to let people hear. So I get that part of her. It is a lot of pressure because fans don’t want her to grow and want a new miseducation. The reason a lot of people didn’t understand her unplugged album when it’s some of her best work. With that said though, fine, have your life, raise your children, but don’t come back teasing us whenever you feel like it if you aren’t going to be 100% about it. Being late once is not a problem. Ish happens, but being blatantly disrespectful and saying “I’m worth the wait”‘ when she hasn’t been putting on stellar performances is too much. All she had to do was apologize and get her set started. A part of being rich and famous is that you allow yourself to be in a microscope. You could easily make minimum wage and have no one know your name like the majority of people in the world but that’s not the life you chose so deal with it. With the talent comes the scrutiny, comes the times when people are going to love you and people are going to despise you.
    Fact of the matter is she is an amazing gift, and a time when the music industry is yearning for something extremely great and knowing she has the potential to be that, we are mad that she isn’t being that. We are disappointment, and yes we want more from her. We need more from her. So I disagree that she doesn’t owe us anything. Her gift is what she owes the world…in its purest form, not the half ass performances, and not the ego as if she’s had a hit single in the past decade. People are fed up with her playing with our musical emotions.

    • January 3, 2011 - Reply


      If she doesn’t think she’s worth the wait, who will? I see tons of people online being arrogant, etc…and with nothing to show for it. Now when she does it, there’s a problem. When Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali et. al proclaims themselves the “greatest” one says anything.
      I think people are greedy and unrealistic when it comes to their admiration of an artist. Her ‘gift’ is something she owes herself, how she chooses to share it to the world is up to her.

  9. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    love this, ayesha. i’m just going to re-write what i wrote about seeing her live, myself:
    ‘it was ride through a variety of genres that resulted in an unexpected, but certainly not disappointing experience. undoubtedly, those waiting to see and hear l-boogie circa 1999 were left wanting. but those waiting to see hear the soul-stirring voice and ridiculously powerful emceeing skills that we fell in love with with the fugees and on miseducation, and the introspective, soulful poetry that emerged out of unplugged got exactly what they were waiting for, and then some. the one constant, over the years is that–as danyel smith wrote in 1999–“people respond to her because she trembles with a real serious kind of truth….” amen.’

    • January 3, 2011 - Reply


      I remember that exact quote from Danyel Smith! Quite apropos!

  10. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    This was beautifully written..As an artist myself I would only hope that fans gain the type of appreciation for me that you so eloquently write of Lauryn..We all love matter what she goes through..Life happens..Thank you for being a clear and vivid voice of reason..

    • January 3, 2011 - Reply


      apparently being a voice of reason garners a person the title of “Lauryn Hill apologist” lol

  11. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    The only flaw w/using the snow as a reason for lateness is that the entire audience made it there for 8…
    I don’t feel she owes me a thing as an artist, but being that late is unacceptable…Had it been a venue that wasn’t booked for the entire night those people could have been asked to leave for whatever show may have followed.

  12. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    I have been a huge fan of L-Boogie since her soap opera days, but I have to call a spade a spade. If this is how Lauryn continues her shows, she might as well cancel any upcoming tour dates. This was not an isolated incident, but an ongoing occurrence. I can see being 10-15 minutes late, but 3 and 4 hours?? Sorry but that is highly disrespectful and unprofessional, and demonstrates total disregard to fans who not only spent damn near $100 to see her, but could have spent their time and hard-earned money elsewhere. Her having kids is an excuse as many artist have kids. That’s a cop-out.
    Lauryn does owe her fans. She owes them a decent show that starts on time minus the diva antics and not taking responsibilty. Fans have been waiting for years for her comeback and this is what we get? Nahh, I’m good on this.

  13. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    I think Lauryn Hill owes it to paying customers to show up on time. It’s called professionalism. And if she wants to operate on her own time, then do so and stop booking dates.

  14. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    The Roots show in DC…Questlove gave plenty of updates about being late and as for him replying to the fan, that’s his business. I feel like if you’re a performer then you accept everything that comes with the business and since it’s a JOB then you should be on time; if not then apologize, reassure the fans etc. not give this diva attitude, which he definitely didn’t do. I love Lauryn as much as the next person but I’m not gonna put her on some pedestal and excuse her because “she’s worth it”. If I paid money to see you, you should at least be on time or apologize and get the show going. I just feel like you keep making excuses for her and trying to compare her to other artists to show that we don’t apply the same criticisms. in some cases, no, but in others, yes. no one is forcing us to go to her shows but what if someone doesn’t follow up on her consistent lateness and buys a ticket and is waiting for 4 hours? I guess it’s just their fault that they didn’t know then right? please.

  15. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    I swear the with the tone of the comments, you’d think Lauryn Hill was a martyr or a savior of the music industry. She is not. You don’t have to buy tickets to shows, no one is forcing you. Chances are, her next show is sold out, the rest of them will be as well.

  16. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    The Re-education of Lauryn Hill Fans: Lauryn Hill Owes You Nothing ……
    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  17. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    How many times have ya’ll paid for a ticket to a club, show, or otherwise and not been able to get in…or the act is late?
    What do ya do??–>You chalk that shit up to a loss and keep pushin’. Most times on the tix, it says non-refundable, or something to that effect anyway, so you know going in it’s a risk.
    Having been on both sides of the fence as a fan, and as a performer…shit happens you could never imagine, and most times you never hear about it, but you enjoy the show nonetheless.
    Dude it’s Lauryn Hill, you know she gone be late…30mins or 3 hours. Hell, she got a soccer team (something is bound to go wrong with that many kids, and factor in regular show nonsense…C’mon Son, sit down and be cool somewhere.) Pack a lunch and enjoy the damn ride, or else don’t get on.

  18. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    Right now, it’s looking like Lauryn doesn’t value her audience. We have been waiting for her for YEARS now. I understand life, weather, and transportation failures happen. However, it is very unprofessional to have anyone, whether it’s a client, a customer, an audience, or even a friend waiting 3-4 hours. I’m not condoning people making signs; that’s also rude. Then, when tardiness becomes a habit, she can’t act hurt when people get upset with her for being late. It shows she don’t value the sacrifices (tickets, baby-sitter, trekking through snow, etc.) people made to see her sing.
    People still love her and wants to hear her sing-no one pays $50-$200 to see someone fail. (You can watch people fail on YouTube for free.) However, you can’t show up late AND sing all unrecognizable versions of your old songs. Whether she likes it or not, those old songs are what won her audience over in the first place. Mixing the old with the new makes the audiences reminisce about the past and eager to hear what’s coming out next. Adding couple of the old arrangements could help bring the audience around to being open to listen to the new ones, even when she’s late. Plus, it’s not like we’re showing up in her living room at dinnertime, blasting Miseducation, screaming, “Sing Final Hour!” It’s a concert, where people come to hear you sing. It’s logical that they might want to hear a song they know.
    Maybe she needs a change in management. Someone who won’t schedule her for an 8 o’clock concert when she can’t go on before midnight. Someone who knows how to keep the crowd engaged and hyped to see her until she gets there. Someone who will help her with the kids and “real life” on concert dates.
    As fickle as the music industry is today, the fact that she still has an audience is a testament to her talent. We’re still here, waiting anxiously, for her to get it together. We all make compromises to be successful and share our gifts with others. However, confusing anger over tardiness and stubbornness with disrespect is like thinking your mate no longer loves you because they don’t like your new hairstyle. If she doesn’t feel doing concerts, she can always just put out albums and videos. I could live with that. Don’t make us out to be the bad guy because we want to see you sing when you say you’re going to sing.

  19. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    I don’t know why people were surprised Lauryn was late. If you check the venues timeline on twitter, they gave updates throughout the day. The first was I think the band was setting up and Lauryn would perform around 10:00. The next update was before the venue opened, and they said that soundcheck was running late and Lauryn would be going on later than expected; therefore, plan your time accordingly.

  20. January 3, 2011 - Reply

    To the contrary, Lauren Hill owes a timely performance to each and every person who paid x dollars to see her, just like she would expect timely payment for her services. I think the “artist” argument is a bit disingenuous once commerce comes into the equation. She could sing and write to her heart’s content at every open mike from Brooklyn to Seattle with nobody harassing her about timeliness. But once folks want to get PAID for their art, then they need to abide by norms of any profession – punctuality and attendance come to mind.
    I also wonder if Ms. Hill would have the same blase attitude about time if it were her that was being inconvenienced. How accommodating do you think she would be if her hotel rooms, restaurant meals, dry cleaning etc weren’t ready for 3 hours due to staff having kids with them, bad traffic, the dog dying yadda yadda. Anyway you get my pernt.
    For the record, I think Questlove was wrong too. I bet he wasn’t late for that photo op with Obama in his profile pic or ever late to his gig at 30 rock. People will prioritize things that are important to them. Sometimes the audience isn’t as important, which is okay. Just know that sometimes the artist is going to lose out with the audience as well.

  21. January 4, 2011 - Reply

    […] […]

  22. January 4, 2011 - Reply

    no offense. i think u are making valid points, but are stretching your point into an area which most will disagree.
    you say “people are greedy and unrealistic when it comes to their admiration of an artist”
    it has nothing to do with that. the point is simple. if i showed up late for work 3-4 hours late, even if i called my boss, she would be wondering where i was, especially if i had something important to do that day. would she be understanding? yes depending on my issue. i have 4 kids … so using that as an excuse isn’t going to work with me.
    would i expect her to protest, hold up signs and shout rude comments as i walked in? hell no.
    but at the the same time i wouldn’t walk in like she owed me something either.
    u say lauryn hill is just a regular person, well fine. lauryn hill should abide by regular people rules.
    and no one is saying “lauryn is martyr or a savior of the music industry” shes human. i’m not sure what poll you took that equated lauryn with some type of hero, but most people don’t. people get that shes human, but that doesn’t excuse poor behavior and being unapologetic.
    and just as u say … no one forced people to buy tickets … well no one forced lauryn hill from under that rock she crawled from. shes a grown ass woman and capable of living her life without being under the scrutiny of the public eye.
    so to me your post was confusing and one-side (but hey, maybe that was the point). lauryn hill is an everyday chick and doesn’t owe use anything, and we don’t owe her our respect.

  23. January 4, 2011 - Reply

    Instead of people lamenting about Lauryn Hill…help find a young black girl…

  24. January 4, 2011 - Reply

    cool article. I understand delays, but I wouldn’t wait four hours for anyone. I wonder how they filled all of that time. Did the other artists do encores?
    With all that said those are some of the greatest quotes I have heard in a long time.
    “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”
    and especially this:
    “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”.
    LOL. Somewhere, Kanye is bowing his head in respect to a higher power.

  25. January 4, 2011 - Reply

    I love Lauryn but…RESPECT is the name of the game.
    Lauren’s time is NO MORE important than that of her fans. Period.
    So let’s not PRETEND, that she’s doing her fans a favor by showing up 4 hours late. That is not the case.
    We PAY to see her. Sometimes in more ways than one.
    It is truly unconscionable to think that anyone who has CHOSEN a career in music,
    would believe for a second that it’s OK to keep people waiting for hours and not expect some type of backlash. Well, that’s just delusional.
    Life is about choices, she made hers and I have made mine.
    Whatever your career choice, either come CORRECT or stay home. Professionalism.

  26. January 5, 2011 - Reply

    […] of my fellow writers/bloggers wrote a great piece “The-Reeducation of Lauryn Hill” where she talked about how we shouldn’t confine Lauryn Hill into a box and let her be. While […]

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