In a time where the eeriness of the pandemic and the lingering uncertainty of global health prevails, I continue to search for silver linings, regardless of how small they may be. Fully emerging oneself into an artist’s oeuvre and a specific album in totality has quickly become a beloved venture. Otherwise known as nerdy musical escapism. Listening to the narrative depth and complexities of Ms Lauryn Hill is one of my new sweet joys, one I would recommend with zeal.
Generationally, I fear we are bombarded with new music, singles and ‘TikTok’ songs by the minute. One often forgets the euphoria of an album’s wholeness. Here I reflect on my long-standing appreciation of this artist, and why I will never stop loving the insane lyricist and her work in its entirety.
Ms Hill has received recent press after her daughter Selah Marley took to Instagram announcing traumas from her childhood. Since Lauryn posted several lengthy Instagram posts responding to such statements, clarifying that ‘Selah has every right to express herself’ though ’the discipline was seen through a lens of a younger child who also had no place to reconcile me as a mom’- for further information about Ms Lauryn Hill personal life see posts @mslaurynhill.
Ms Lauryn Hill, a New Jersey-born singer/songwriter first came to light in the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, where she starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg. Accompanied by Tanya Blout, Ms Hill’s rendition of ‘His Eye Is on The Sparrow’ for this blockbuster is heavenly, and for me steals the show, despite the heart-warming ‘Oh Happy Day’ high note. The young vocalists only sing together fleetingly, yet these 30 seconds remain exceptionally vivid in my mind. The stained-glass windows, deep wooded piano and the candlelit ambience combine to provide the visual setting helping to frame their vocal harmonies to that of biblical importance. The scene is somewhat painterly and completely unforgettable.
Following this Christ-like break out Ms Hill joined the Fugees, with whom she released two albums, notably the Grammy-award winning album The Score (1996). I was too young to appreciate this on release. When I say too young… unborn! Though now listening in reflection I can still appreciate their authentic sound. This Hip-Hop album was the genesis of many hits such as ‘Killing me softly, ‘Fu-Gee-La’ and ‘Ready or Not’. I would be lying if I were to say that I haven’t spent days on end repeatedly listening to ‘Fu-Gee-La’ with an iced coffee in one hand and a book in the other, dancing with jubilant insanity in my garden. Note to my neighbours; I deeply apologise. The song instantly refills my serotonin levels, and it is this radiance I find myself craving in the craziness of coronavirus.
Parting with the band, Ms Hill proceeded to record and release her only solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), which remains one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the modern era. The genius of Hill’s work did not go unrecognised at the time, gaining an abundance of awards for its fusion of hip hop, soul and reggae. It is here that I must reiterate the exuberance of a succinct musical narrative. The intricacies of this album have been academically analysed on Dissect, a serialised podcast run by Spotify. This long-form analysis takes a new song each episode, and intellectually breaks down the musical references and sampling, as well as merging the social context which birthed the chosen album. In times when reading can be difficult, Dissect can provide some cerebral satisfaction. Other albums similarly dissected are Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Tyler the Creator’s Flower Boy.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a record I will repeatedly return to. It has been the soundtrack of many social gatherings and commuting journeys, as well as a personal revision background, back when exams were still a thing. It now dominates my pandemic/ post-pandemic playlist, filling my mornings with soulful warmth and masterful lyricism. If you are in need of some happiness and musical joy, Ms Lauryn Hill will forever be a shout!
In the words of the artist herself, ‘don’t be a hard rock, when you really are a gem’; be kind to yourself, relax and listen up!