Skip to main content

100 Albums: "The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill" by Lauryn Hill

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Lauryn Hill
Title: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Released: 1998
Genre: neo-soul hip-hop r&b reggae


Hill broke in the mainstream as a member of the Fugees, alongside Pras and Wyclef Jean. She was the featured vocalist on the group's most successful hit, a cover of Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly that blended the original soulful melody with hip-hop and reggae influences. After the group rocketed to stardom on the success of their album The Score, they immediately split up to pursue solo projects. Miseducation is Hill's only solo studio album, and is something of a minor masterpiece--a deeply personal record that features commentary on motherhood, race, and culture (while she is dedicated to equality, Hill's personal politics are, not to put to fine a point on it, reactionary). The ostensible main theme of the record is capital-L Love. As was trendy in late 90s hip-hop, the album is sprinkled with skits. The ones on this record are all audio from a class where the teacher is discussing the concept of love with his students. In the intro, you can hear him taking attendance and Hill is absent. And that's the joke--Hill was absent the day they taught about love in school.

Miseducation straddles sub-genres deftly. Classic 60s R&B is clearly a big influence on Hill, one that she explicitly calls out on Doo Wop (That Thing), a late-album track that was also the first and arguably best single. The arrangements have drum-and-bass that evoke reggae, and Hill's vocals are a blend of soul and hip-hop, and she excels at both. Her soulful wail is at its most poignant on Ex-Factor, a heart-wrenching song. She gets to exercise both on Everything Is Everything, singing the first verse and delivering a blistering rap on the second that is thick with internal rhyme and wordplay. One of the things that makes her vocals so distinctive is the way she doubles crooning over atonal spoken word. The effect is dissonant, but she makes it work. The best songs are unquestionably the singles. The non-single album tracks are decent--mostly. The post-intro starter Lost Ones doesn't really hold together that well, but the title track closes out the album beautifully. Oddly, my copy has two bonus songs that seem tacked-on. There's a cover of Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You that's not bad, but it feels like pandering to fans of Killing Me Softly, and then a light-weight and forgettable ballad called Tell Him. They're curios, but stop at the title track if you just want to get a good listen of the whole disc.

Hill seemed to be uncomfortable with the spotlight. She never recorded another proper album and only toured sporadically. This was her opus, one that she wrote and produced largely by herself. It's honestly a shame we didn't get to hear more music from this talented artist.

Further listening: If you haven't heard The Fugees' take on Killing Me Softly, go listen to it right now.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Albums

Hello all!

In an attempt to keep the old blog from atrophying, I'm going to try out a project a friend of mine did a few years ago and spend the year writing about some of my favorite albums. So over the next 50 weeks, you can expect a couple entries a week until we get to 100. Or until I run out of steam and give up. Whichever comes first.

The only rule I'm giving myself here is to limit things to one album per artist. If that would preclude other favorite albums from making the list, I'll note it, but I don't want the list to be completely overrun by Radiohead and the Beatles. I'm going to start at the top of the list (that is, with my #1 favorite), but the ordering is not super rigorous--especially beyond the first twenty or so.

I'll put a master list on a page that's easily accessible from the front and I'll probably throw in some supplemental stuff, like albums I loved as a child but can't really listen to anymore for various reasons or albums …

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it.

I get it now.

I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat betwee…

Sale and a Kickstarter - A Punk Rock Future Anthology

Hey all, some exciting news. I've had a story accepted to the A Punk Rock Future anthology, which just launched a kickstarter for pre-orders. My story is called Wailsong and I'll be sharing a table of contents with a bunch of incredible writers (whom I would normally name-drop here, but instead you can click through and check it out for yourself).

Super excited, y'all,
]{p