Yesterday, rumors were running rampant that none other than Lauryn Hill would be performing at The GRAMMYS with The Weeknd, marking a triumphant return to a stage she commanded nearly two decades ago now, but come showtime Ms. Hill was nowhere to be found.
While Lauryn's reps said that she was "...uncertain she would even be able to make it to LA in time to rehearse for the event," in a backstage press conference tonight with The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Neil Portnow I attended, he said that Lauryn did indeed rehearse but didn't necessarily cancel, she was simply late.
"Lauryn Hill was someone that The Weeknd felt would be great to collaborate with. He reached out, had conversations, we actually had some rehearsals off site that she didn’t attend. Then we had a dress rehearsal [Sunday] that she did attend. When it came to actual showtime we were told that she was late - one minute, three minutes, seven minutes, she didn’t make it. She didn’t make the performance, didn’t get into the building on time. I know if I have to be someplace on time I make sure I figure it out, but credit to The Weekend. He's a great artist, a new artist. He was planning something, but plans change and he killed it."
Well, that's...anticlimactic. Clearly the ideal would have been if the duet between The Weeknd and Hill had actually happened, but if it didn't it would at least been more understandable if Lauryn had cancelled because she was sick, or decided to purposefully boycott the GRAMMYS for political reasons, essentially anything but "Sorry, I got caught in bad traffic." It's a disappointing turn for an artist who once pocketed five GRAMMY awards in a single night, but if we've learned anything over the last few years it's that Ms. Hill does what she wants, when she wants, and neither fans nor The Weeknd nor the GRAMMYs are going to get her to budge.
And as long as we're here, obviously eager to get all the bad news out of the way first, Portnow also confirmed that Rihanna cancelled her performance well in advance due to very legitimate health concerns, and that there were audio issues with Adele's performance that caused a microphone to pall into the piano and momentarily dim her sound. No live event goes perfectly - at least we'll always have Kendrick's performance.
[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]