Every once in a while an artist comes along that drastically changes the landscape of sound, the very way we interpret the movement of music. In 1998, Lauryn Hill brought us light in a way we’d never experienced it. She gave us something that fell beyond the parameters of “new” and became unidentifiably beautiful.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the pinnacle of years of maturation, heartbreak, and rebirth. L-Boogie became a goddess of Hip-Hop and responded to the onslaught of sugary sweet pop with her own brand of mysticism. Coming out of the Prodigal Son of Hip-Hop groups in the 90s (The Fugees), Lauryn expanded her vocal and lyrical versatility on her own. She coupled the scope of her life experiences with the continued growth of students in a public school, discussing love as if they’d felt the sensations of that enigmatic rose.
With an album title that is a nod to the continued institutionalised racism highlighted in W.E.B DuBois’ The Miseducation of the Negro, there’s no doubt that Lauryn’s intent was to raise eyebrows and consciousnesses to a level that they’d strayed far from for the better part of 30 years.
The album opens with a bell, signifying that school is now in session. From that first blaring ring, we’re plopped right back into the classrooms, dusty and dim, smelling of youth and chalk dust. The teacher is taking attendance. The very last name he calls out doesn’t respond. “Lauryn Hill. Lauryn Hill. Lauryn Hill…” fading suddenly into a thumping, yet sparse, beat, through which Lauryn’s voice strums.