The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
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The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
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Grammy-winner Lauryn Hill releases her solo debut album, a follow-up to the Fugees's The Score.
Media Format: Compact Disk
Release Date: 25-AUG-1998
The first solo album by the Fugees' most distinctive voice quickly wipes away the pretensions of so many current hip-hoppers' discs. It does so by both engaging their widescreen ethos--"To Zion," with its martial drums and gospel choir, is as epic a production as has been heard in 1998's pop music--and speaking the plain truth. Reminiscent in its scope of nothing so much as Aretha's early-'70s Spirit in the Dark and Young, Gifted and Black, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill also easily earns its late-'90s place next to Erykah Badu's Baduizm. Even more personal, if hardly any more political, than cohort Wyclef Jean's Carnival, Miseducation focuses equally on her life (especially the birth of her child) and social concerns about the present and future. Its often quiet surface, if anything, lends intensity. "Everything you drop is so tired," she scolds artistically dead-ended rappers on "Superstar"; if more artists shared her vision, occasional eccentricities and bottom-line talent, she wouldn't have to complain. --Rickey WrightSee all Editorial Reviews
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Since Lauryn Hill was responsible for the bulk of the writing, arranging, producing and performing, this has to be considered her creation, and so most of the credit for its success is hers. The three main elements she employs are rap, soul singing and R&B music, both old and new, used in various combinations and to various degrees, with other elements thrown in for extra spice. "Lost Ones" is a strong, confident rap ("My emancipation don't fit your equation...You might win some but you just lost one"), but it includes some harmonized singing of the choruses as well. "Ex-Factor" is a somber ballad, with the vocal high and vulnerable as the singer pleads for fairness and "reciprocity" in a relationship. Two other somber ballads are "When It Hurts So Bad" and "I Used To Love Him". In the latter, she finds redemption and announces, "Father you saved me and showed me that life/Was much more than being some foolish man's wife". In "To Zion", hip-hop blends with Latin sounds, with some help from Carlos Santana, as she expresses joy over the birth of her son. "Doo Wop" mixes rap with retro R&B, and includes the memorable hook about "...that thing, that thing, that thiiiing...". "Superstar" references the Doors hit "Light My Fire", with harmonizing voices alternating with a single gospel voice against a background of a hip-hop arrangement which features a harp, of all things. She chides the superstar: "Come on baby light my fire/Everything you drop is so tired/Music is supposed to inspire/How come we ain't gettin' no higher". "Forgive Them Father" is a mid-tempo, very serious song about false motivations and betrayal by those close to you. One memorable line in the song is "Like Cain and Abel, Caesar and Brutus, Jesus and Judas, back stabbers do this". There is a rap in the middle of the song, and we get to hear some Jamaican patois at the beginning and at the end. "Every Ghetto, Every City" is a bit lighter and funkier as Lauryn reminisces about good times from back in the day. "Everything Is Everything" is dramatically serious, meant as encouragement to persevere in life's struggles: "Everything is everything/What is meant to be, will be/After winter, must come spring/Change, it comes eventually."
Whether this sequence was deliberate or not, the last listed track and the two bonus (hidden) tracks are all 3 positive in mood and pretty mainstream in sound. "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" is a comparatively bright-sounding ballad. The cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" is faster than the original, but that fits in with the hip-hop arrangement and happy vibe. "Tell Him" is practically a breezy pop song with a hip-hop beat.
To emphasize the theme of (mis)education, there are interludes between the musical tracks in which we hear interaction between a teacher and some students. But I think that we, the public, are the ones truly enlightened by this album.
One of my favorite cuts (of all time) is "Lost Ones." She proceeds to knock her haters, with style and grace. It verges on scripture. The mean hip hop hook and smooth raps/vocals seal the deal for me. I could head bop to this, all day long, as I work out or do just about anything. My second favorite song is "Tell Him." This is her love letter to God. Just smooth, makes me feel like I am at a revival. The interludes, between the songs, are wonderful. A teacher/speaker proceeds to lead young people through a series of guided discussions about life. The students are engaged, funny and insightful.
What makes this album so exceptional is the smooth transition from genre to genre. Lauryn Hill blends them, like a pro. Hip hop, reggae, soul and samples are melded into a sound painting. Glorious.