In appreciation of Black History Month, all of February will feature Black and Mixed Race artists.
An artist, an icon, a warrior, a fighter, a mother, a teacher, a singer, and a muse, Lauryn Hill has worn many hats in her day, but none so important as that of warrior for women in the music industry. She challenged what it meant to be a solo female artist, what it meant to have a career on your own terms, and the industry's assumption that an artist must stay in one small box for the entirety of her career.
Raised mostly in South Orange, New Jersey, Hill began singing with her music-oriented family during her childhood. She enjoyed success as an actress at an early age, with her older brother Graham Hill, appearing in a recurring role on the television soap opera As the World Turns and starring in the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. In high school, Hill was approached by Pras Michel to start a band, which his friend, Wyclef Jean, soon joined. They renamed themselves the Fugees and released the albums Blunted on Reality (1994) and the Grammy Award-winning The Score (1996). In the latter record, which sold six million copies in the United States, Hill rose to prominence with her African-American and Caribbean music influences, her rapping and singing, and her rendition of the hit "Killing Me Softly". Hill's tumultuous romantic relationship with Jean led to the split of the band in 1997, after which she began to focus on solo projects.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) remains Hill's only solo studio album. It received massive critical acclaim, showcasing a representation of life and relationships and locating a contemporary voice within the neo soul genre. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and has sold approximately eight million copies there. It included the singles "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (also a number one), "Ex-Factor" (became her biggest solo hit in UK), and "Everything Is Everything". At the 41st Grammy Awards, the record earned her five awards, including Album of the Yearand Best New Artist. During this time she won numerous other awards and became a common sight on the cover of magazines.
Soon afterward, Hill dropped out of the public eye, dissatisfied with the music industry and suffering with the pressures of fame. Her last full-length recording, the new-material live album MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002), sharply divided critics and sold poorly compared to her first album and work with the Fugees. Hill's subsequent activity, which includes the release of a few songs and occasional festival appearances, has been sporadic. Her behavior has sometimes caused audience dissatisfaction; a reunion with her former group did not last long. Her music, as well as a series of public statements she has issued, has become critical of pop culture and societal institutions. Hill has six children, five of whom are with Rohan Marley. In 2012, she pleaded guilty to tax evasion for failure to pay federal income taxes, and in 2013, served a three-month prison sentence.
She can not be denied as an artist or a musician. With one single album she solidified her place in the pantheon of female artists who will never be forgotten.
So today, with love bursting all around, I choose Lauryn Hill's "Tell Him" as my, never let go unsaid, lift your love above, fly on the wings, song for a, break open with each crack, let the light out, sing unto him, Friday!