This will be my attempt to write a short post. However, knowing me, my heart simply won’t allow me to push it aside. Okay….
There aren’t many times in my life when I can say I’ve been completely inspired and whisked away in a tinted reverie. Frank Ocean has made me start to look for a superhero in music again. There are a few artists who have and always will bring me enlightenment, give me a higher sense of the beauty that is in this world; however, if I’m being completely honest, those artists don’t get the appreciation they deserve. I’ve managed to blame this on the stagnation of musical interest, the lack of any desire for something truly beautiful and exceptional the mainstream masses have managed to harbour within their hearts.
Lo and behold, Frank Ocean comes along, wrapping his poetry deceptively in a language as natural and familiar to people as the course tongue of someone who doesn’t understand the intricacies in written verse. channel ORANGE became something of a beacon of elegance to me. Admittedly I first heard about Frank Ocean in the whole explosion about his sexuality. With that alone, I was sceptical about giving this young man a shot. If you know anything about me, you know it’s not because of his sexuality. Rather, my apprehension came out of the idea that everybody has an angle, everybody has a way to make themselves better known, more popular, promote themselves to the highest bidder.
But then I began to hear a completely different sort of news — his album is completely off-centre. It’s something so new to the scene that people were just besides themselves with anticipation of its release. Well, a few weeks after the album dropped, I decided I needed to just go ahead and give this man the respect he deserves and listen to him because every single artist deserves a listen, barring all noise and fanfare about anything other than the music. What I heard completely changed everything I know about what I’d understood to be “mainstream.”
Can a sound as pure as love itself truly be considered revolutionary? Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t believe that to be true. However, sometimes it takes a small nymph from a land that you’ve never imagined in your wildest fantasies to bring something noble to your eyes and open your heart to something brand new.
Such was the case when I discovered Cree Summer’s only full-length album, Street Faerie.
Cree’s is a voice tempered with such grace and such emotion that it’s shocking that she hasn’t been fully recognized for her musical prowess. We all know her in one form or another, but all those permutations take the shape of some animated character. However, her most flawless and symphonic sound is when she’s opening her soul and her throat and allowing the audience to touch something deep inside her so raw that it’s almost uncomfortable.
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.