Ms. Lauryn Hill is a cultural and political icon; a shapeshifting musical and literary being that will forever touch souls with her creativity. From her years with the Fugees to her solo opus, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, there will only ever be one of her. Now 20 years old, the GRAMMY-winning album becomes more relevant with each passing day, with its influential fingerprints found all across modern music.
In 2018, we have both Drake and Cardi B borrowing from the weeping “Ex Factor.” We have upcoming acts citing Ms. Hill as an influence and a role model. We have expansive prose written in the name of Miseducation, we have controversy and we have defense, and we have all the makings of a woman whose star power will outlive every warping vinyl copy of her seminal record.
To celebrate the conjuring and timeless spirit of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on its 20th birthday, we’ve partnered with TIDAL and reached out to a grip of celebrated culture writers—Karen Good Marable, Touré, Danyel Smith, Kris Ex, Kevin Powell, Najma Sharif, Keith "Murph" Murphy, Wanna Thompson, and Ivie Ani—and had them reflect on the personal and cultural impact of the album. Surprise, surprise: Ms. Lauryn Hill’s impact was and continues to be nothing short of seismic.
See what Karen Good Marable, who penned the original VIBE cover story on Ms. Hill in 1998 has to say below, and check out the full article on TIDAL.
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Karen Good Marable, Wrote the VIBE Cover Story in 1998
“It’s hard to answer which song from Miseducation has stayed with me the longest. ‘Lost Ones’ is a classic. And I’ve always loved the groove of ‘Superstar,’ how she mocks the wannabes. But probably the most enduring song on the album is, for me, ‘When It Hurts So Bad.’ I was in my mid-to-late twenties when the album debuted, rising out of the fog of a bad situation, and I could relate completely to this song. The phrasing of the opening line—‘I loved real, real hard once / But love wasn’t returned’—recall Donny Hathaway’s ‘I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,’ so you know she’s about to take you there. And on the part just before the chorus, where she sings ‘But I / I loved the young man…’ her runs make me weak. For all of the song’s lament, it was ultimately empowering, encouraging listeners to let go and let God. Perhaps that was the theme of the album: After winter, must come spring.
“I mean, I knew Miseducation would be an important album because Lauryn is a tremendously gifted artist. We knew that with how she massacred The Score. But when I hear her rhyme on ‘Everything Is Everything’: ‘I begat this / Flippin in the ghetto on a dirty mattress / You can’t match this / Rapper slash actress / More powerful than two Cleopatras / Bomb graffiti on the tomb of Nefertiti…’ I got excited. C’mon son.
“I think the power of Miseducation, why it resonates to this day, is manifold: Chiefly, here was a woman telling her truth, laying herself bare. That sort of articulation of vulnerability, especially in your embarrassing, angsty twenties, will always resonate. At the same time, Lauryn’s tongue was a machete. Her rhymes on the album, especially on ‘Final Hour’ and ‘Lost Ones,’ solidified her as one of the best rappers in the game—period. Few could rival her flows and dizzying cultural references. Aaaaand the woman could sing? Like, really sing. Lauryn was a triple threat and she brought all these powers to Miseducation.
“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill captured the cultural zeitgeist at a time hip-hop could no longer be denied. Because Lauryn comes out of the Native Tongues lineage, it made sense she felt it necessary to create a work not just about personal love and loss, but also a kind of concept album considering the carnage happening in the culture. Miseducation—with its employment of hip-hop meets scripture—was both commentary and confrontation. And it was done by this brilliant, gorgeous, chocolate-brown woman from Newark with locs who carried herself like a queen. Lauryn Hill was limitless.”