It’s time for us to delve into yet another classic album and on the surface at least, we are going quite far outside of Riot Act’s original remit, as we look at the debut solo album by New Jersey soul, R&B and hip-hop queen Ms. Lauryn Hill, the groundbreaking The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, released on the 25th of August 1998.
We chart the rise of Hill’s first band The Fugees and the incredible success they achieved whilst being led by an enigmatic 21-year old girl who still lived at home with her parents. Their 1996 sophomore album The Score turned them into multi-platinum megastars but the aftermath of the band’s success was peppered with controversy, as Hill and fellow Fugee Wyclef Jean’s relationship fell apart whilst on tour, and the young singer fell pregnant, setting in motion a chain of events that would inspire the creation of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Despite a lack of label and bandmate support for the project, Hill relocated to Kingston, Jamaica to record a deeply personal, organic and multi-faceted album that dealt with everything from the breakdown of her relationship, her joy at becoming a mother, her love of music and her religious upbringing. Hill’s gritty, determined insistence that her unique meld of modern hip-hop, classic soul and R&B was the sound she believed in was gloriously vindicated when the record entered the US Billboard Top 200 at number one, making her the first female hip-hop star to obtain that position and breaking the first week sales for a female artist in the process. She went on to win 5 Grammys for the album, pick up numerous accolades, sell 20 million copies worldwide and firmly ram the words of the doubters down their throats before vanishing from the limelight almost completely. With no follow up to the record looking any more likely 23 years on, we look at the context, importance and legacy of one of the most groundbreaking and influential albums in the history of modern music.