So, it has come to my attention the name LAURYN HILL doesn’t scream, queen of hip-hop...
a founding mother of the ever-growing genre and foundation to our understanding of female rappers and lyricists. Her first solo album the “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” shaped her career, but also showcased her as one of the first to blend rapping and singing. This would go on to be the first hip-hop album to be credited ‘Album of the Year, as well as her winning Best New Artist at the 1998 GRAMMY’s. Hip-hop surpassed its previously gold ceiling to become a billion-dollar industry in the 90s, hitting the dual sweet spots of artistic achievement and all the commercial trappings of platinum success, Lauryn Hill being a leading voice in this evolution of music.
“How you gone win, when you ain’t right within?” – ‘Doo Wop (that thing)' by Lauryn Hill
By the time of her first solo release, she would have already racked up 5 GRAMMYs. In 1996, before her solo career, her part in the rap trio, ‘Fugees’ saw 2 additional awards, one being best rap album for their nº1 album ‘The Score’; however, this would only be the start of her collection, to date comprising 103 awards across the board. Her own neo-soul and R&B album, shot straight to the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart resonating within the black community but also the female demographic, and subsequently breaking a record for a female artist’s first week sales.
“I had all these songs that I planned to give away to other people till I realised, wow this is about me” – Lauryn Hill MTV interview
Her songs through her career have combined her rap and Motown inspired melodies, to tackle various societal issues. On the cautionary ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ she warns against opportunistic relationships and ‘To Zion’ ft Carlos Santana, Miss Hill booked the assumptions women can’t have a child and a successful career. The equally thoughtful song ‘Lost Ones’ flaunted her ability to create club hits with a message too. Lauryn’s range not only allowed her to rap with the best of hip-hop but also sing along the greatest of R&B, like ‘nothing even matters’ ft D’Angelo and ‘I Used to Love Him’, with the queen of soul Mary J. Blige.
“I had something to say and I wanted to make sure it reached the people and I didn’t want it to go over the heads of people and at that point R&B music wasn’t being used to make any statements, it was hip-hop.”
Miss Hill’s image also deviated from that of the female representation in the music industry during the 90s, breaking from the subliminal net understanding of it being a man’s world, with only sex appeal giving a woman a chance at making it in music. However, as Joan Morgan in her book ‘She Begat This: 20 Years of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ puts it:
“Making cover-girl moves where no dreadlocked black girl has gone before – Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan sh*t. Essence – we have Lauryn Hill to thank for the present-day Gucci models who sport TWA’s (Teeny-Weeny Afros)” – Joan Morgan
So, that’s a bit about the queen Lauryn Hill and her extraordinary career. If you haven’t already, go listen to some of her music (you WILL enjoy it) and … if you don’t know, now you know. Peace.