Lauryn Hill, A Hiphop Royalty and More
by Rapjoint Lagos
Lauryn Noelle Hill (born May 26, 1975) is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and actress. She is often regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time,as well as being one of the most influential musicians of her generation. Hill is credited for breaking barriers for female rappers, popularizing melodic rapping and for bringing hip hop and neo soul to popular music. She is known for being a member of Fugees and her solo album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998), which became one of the best-selling albums of all-time. Hill has won many accolades, including eight Grammy Awards, the most for a female rapper to this day.
Lauryn Hill broke through with multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-winning group the Fugees, but with her 1998 solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the singer, songwriter, rapper, and producer established herself as a creative force on her own. She successfully integrated rap, soul, and reggae into a singular sound. Eclectic, uplifting, and empowering, the album was often cited by younger artists as a touchstone. Following its success, Hill was something of an enigma, her recorded output limited to a live set, scattered compilation appearances, and a handful of collaborations. Disenchantment with the entertainment industry, along with legal issues and erratic performances, did not lessen the impact of her '90s work.
Raised in South Orange, New Jersey, Hill spent her youth listening her parents' multi-genre, multi-generational record collection. She began singing at an early age and snagged minor roles on television (As the World Turns) and in film (Sister Act II: Back in the Habit). Her on-again/off-again membership in the Fugees began at the age of 13, but was often interrupted by both the acting gigs and her enrollment at Columbia University. After developing a following in the tri-state area, the group's first release -- the much-hyped but uneven 1994 album Blunted on Reality -- bombed, and almost caused a breakup. But with the multi-platinum 1996 release The Score, the Fugees became one of the most prominent rap acts on the strength of hit singles "Killing Me Softly," "Ready or Not," and "No Woman, No Cry."
Hill followed it in August 1998 with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her first solo release. Apart from a cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," popularized by Frankie Valli, each song was either written or co-written by Hill. She was also credited with the arrangement and production of the whole album, which was steeped in her old-school background, both musically (the Motown-esque singalong of "Doo Wop [That Thing]") and lyrically (the nostalgic "Every Ghetto, Every City"). As Miseducation began a long reign on the charts through most of the fall and winter of 1998, Hill became a national media icon, as magazines ranging from Time to Esquire to Teen People vied to put her on the cover. By the end of the year, as the album topped best-of lists, she was being credited for her part in assimilating hip-hop into the mainstream. The momentum culminated at the February 1999 Grammy Awards, during which Hill took home five trophies from her 11 nominations, including Album of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Album -- the most ever for a woman. Shortly after, she launched a highly praised national tour with Atlanta rappers OutKast.
Hill continued shaping her solo career, though it hit some significant snags. She faced a lawsuit from musicians who claimed they were denied full credit for their work on Miseducation -- a matter that was eventually settled out of court. After some film projects fell through, she retreated from the music scene as she raised her family and partially attributed her hiatus to feeling too compromised. The double-disc MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 appeared in May 2002 and documented a raw, deeply personal performance. It debuted at number three but quickly slid off the Billboard 200. During the next several years, her recordings and performances were infrequent and erratic, highlighted by a Fugees reunion for Dave Chappelle's Block Party. In 2013, she spent almost three months in prison for tax evasion but was more active after her release. The following year, the English-language version of the Swedish documentary Concerning Violence was released with Hill as its narrator. She executive produced and recorded six songs for the 2015 release Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone, including interpretations of "Feeling Good" and "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair."
Hill is widely considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time,and has often been called the greatest female rapper. The New York Times once referred to Hill as "the most popular woman in hip-hop". Rapper Kool Moe Dee gave Hill the highest score of any rapper on his rap 'Report Cards' list from the book, Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists.Furthermore Beyoncé once stated that she is "one of the best hip-hop rappers ever".In 1998, Time magazine declared her as the "Queen of Hip Hop". The Academy of Achievement, The Boston Globe,and Billboard, among others, have also dubbed her with the same title. In 2015, Billboard named her the seventh greatest rapper of all time on their "10 Best Rappers of All Time" list, with Hill being the only female rapper on the list
Hill has often been cited as one of the most influential entertainers of her generation.Many artists have cited Lauryn Hill as an inspiration to them, including pop artists Adele,Beyoncé,Dua Lipa,Christina Aguilera,Britney Spears,Mumford & Sons,SZA,Doja Cat,H.E.R.,P!nk, Kelly Clarkson; rappers Kanye West,Jay-Z,Missy Elliott,Nicki Minaj,Nas,Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown,Rapsody;Afrobeats singers Tems,and Wizkid; and K-pop artists Jennie of Blackpink,CL of 2NE1,and RM of BTS.
Multiple artists have titled their projects after the album including Freddie Gibbs (The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs), Calboy & Lil Wayne ("Miseducation"),and Lil' Kim ("Mis-education of Lil' Kim").Beyoncé also cited Hill as an inspiration to her during the making of her fourth album 4.Additional albums that were inspired by Hill include Daytona by Pusha T,The College Dropout by Kanye West, and Immunity by Clairo.Nicki Minaj has made mention of Hill's influence on her on multiple occasions; Including on 2020 US number one single "Say So Remix", In which Minaj raps, "Spittin' like Weezy, Foxy, plus Lauryn".Minaj has also referred to Hill as her idol and quoted the artist in her high school yearbook.
John Legend attributes his early career success and his launch into the music industry to Hill, who gave him his first major opportunity as a pianist on the song "Everything Is Everything".Rapsody and Bebe Rexha have both cited Hill as their biggest musical inspiration, as well as UK grime rapper Stormzy naming her his biggest female musical influence. Furthermore musicians Erykah Badu and Jazmine Sullivan have both mentioned her as their musical hero. In addition Kehlani has a tattoo of Hill on her arm.
After performing with Hill, The Weeknd described the experience as the "most important experience of my life".During her 2018 Grammy award acceptance speech, Spanish singer Rosalía thanked her for being influential to her.Ella Mai, Rihanna, H.E.R.,Dan Smith of Bastille,and Adele have all called The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill their personal favorite album, musician Childish Gambino stated that it's his most-listened to album,while rappers J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar have cited it as their favorite album by a female artist.
Hill has won numerous accolades throughout her career, including eight Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year), the most won by a female rapper, five MTV Video Music Awards (including Video of the Year), four NAACP Image Awards (including the President's Award), four Guinness World Records, and three American Music Awards. In 2021, she was among the inaugural nominees for the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame,and was inducted in 2022.
Hill has six children, five of them with Rohan Marley, the son of reggae musician Bob Marley.