20 years ago, the first female to ever top the rap charts, Lauryn Hill, released the ever-strong statement of a generation: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Released in August of 1998, Lauryn Hill’s first and only solo album graced our lives. After making it to number one within the first few days of release, selling almost half a million copies in the first week and breaking the record for sales by a female artist, Hill announced her worldwide tour in 1999. Tickets sold out within hours.
The album won five Grammys in one night, being the first hip-hop record to ever win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and Hill also won the Brit Award for Best International Female Solo Artist. As well as these physical praises, the legacy of the record is one that sparks nostalgia, yet still continues to inspire new generations.
Aside from the many accolades it received after release, the reason this album did so well was that it was recorded with truth. After the dissolution of the Fugees in 1997, Hill began dating Rohan Marley and became pregnant. These two life events, as well as her relationship with religion, provided inspiration for a lot of the material on this album.
However, the album, as a whole, is an ode to inner strength, womankind, and freedom. Hill went from co-writing for Aretha and Houston to writing for herself for her own reasons. The vocals on the album are honest, earthy and mature, like a well-aged cigar. Hill’s narrative throughout the record is a ballsy, yet easy-on-the-ears, newfound independence.
With regards to a track that has stood the test of time, ‘Doo-Wop (That Thing)’ is instantly recognisable, having been popular with advertisements, samples and covers. The track was the first rap song to debut at number one, and its subsequent music video won four MTV VMAs.
The lyrics are fast, careful, and have a lot of weight behind them. They are delivered by Hill in a sporadic way that is still pleasing to the ear, catchy, and full of unrefined emotion. The song calls out a lot of gender inequalities and tries to put them right, putting both men and women in the male-dominated ‘player’ role, only looking for ‘that thing.’
Hill allowed and inspired many more artists of a similar thread to share the limelight, with acts including Outkast, Nicki Minaj, and Nas. The record is one that will continue to influence music and pop culture for a long time and if you haven’t yet, you should definitely give it a listen.