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The Miseducation of Society: Lauryn Hill is Overrated

Ebony Turner, Opinion Editor

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This is easily one of the biggest cardinal sins to make in the music world, and especially the Black community – to say anything bad about Lauryn Hill is as polarizing as speaking bad about soul food. You get stares as if you are an alien that arrived from planet “You are not Black,” and are passed over as a lunatic that does not know of what they speak. Before you judge, consider the opinion before you shoot the messenger.

I am a huge fan of Lauryn Hill’s many great moments, from her time with The Fugees, her contribution to one of the greatest love songs for one of my top ten worst films ever (see: Love Jones), her collaborations with hip-hop greats and her unplugged album that stamped her exit from the corrupt music world that took her peace of mind. I love her voice, her talent, and her impeccable writing, but the pedestal she has been elevated to all from one album is ridiculous, undeserving and should not make her too good to be labeled overrated. Who else do you know is put to historic, legendary levels all from one album?

Granted, my mother has told me just how popular “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” was—so popular she could not go to a hair salon that wasn’t playing it. Every scorned Black woman, radio, and closet R&B loving Black man alike was bumping this album or cassette through their speakers. It was the soundtrack to the end of the 90s R&B era.

No one was taking R&B to this level at that time. Adapting lessons of life to song, with impeccable melodies, writing and a thematic chronology that was normally only adapted by the hip-hop greats. She took everyone to the school of her life, and left critics breathless almost to a point that if the album got a negative review it was tossed as hogwash, considering everyone worth reading gave it no less than five stars.

She sold 500 thousand copies within a week of its release, won five Grammy’s out of her ten nominations, was on the cover of every major magazine labeling her as the Jesus of R&B bringing the genre to new heights. This is a lot of responsibility and praise given to a debut album, and none of the reviews recognized that at some point Hill would have to follow this up with nothing less than better than this. While “Miseducation” had three or four songs on it that I still listen to even today, listening to it now, all hype aside, a great album is an album that can be listened to from start to finish: no skips, regardless of the era we are in. “Miseducation” did not do that for me, and the greatest R&B album did not come until after this release by D’Angelo, which in my opinion has yet to be surpassed in quality by any R&B artist and was the best sophomore album of all time. That is neither here nor there, but Hill’s album was not as timeless to me and had too much hype that has yet to live up to.

Hill has not followed up her solo debut with anything but her Unplugged album, which in theory, is not a follow up because it was just a performance on MTV’s defunct stripped down live performance series. She gave up her career to birth babies for a man that has never and still has yet to claim her as ever being anything other than the mother of his many children. The love lessons in her album had a problem sticking for me after reading up on her relationship with Rohan Marley, and the way the relationship even began which ended under the same circumstances.

I understand we all make mistakes, especially in matters of the heart, but I don’t understand why after over a decade we are still affording the level of respect she has over one album. Why does she get a pass for failing to reproduce and solidify her greatness? Her terrible live performances of late are evidence of the fact that she has no desire to respect her fans enough to give them a reason to still herald her in the way she has been heralded.

As an artist, she has a talent that is non-existent in our current musical state. However, just because this album was created in the elusive era of the 90s doesn’t mean the people of this era were too good to hype up an overrated album. No one was going to say anything bad about Lauryn Hill during this time period because they were not going to be taken seriously – too many people disagreed by association rather than really listening to this album and determining her greatness as an artist by her longevity. Something even the most average of artists have managed to do his follow up an album and stay around for years, a feat Hill has yet to accomplish in a way that produced music. If you even got this far, understand that I respect her one effort and her many spotty efforts as an artist, but Lauryn Hill and her Miseducation are overrated.

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