Remember when you wanted to BE this sista? Be careful what you ask for.
I've been trying to steer clear of this topic but it refuses to go away. It begs me to tune in & pay it lip service, or font service such as it is.
Lauryn Hill. L. Boogie. The once crowned savior of female MC's. Ms. Hill what dey call'er.
She's back. Or something.
It is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY for me to run down how we all felt about Lauryn Hill. She was the brown skinned lovely who was a beautiful representation of Black girls/women on the other side of the Halle Berry spectrum, with undeniable intelligence & unparalleled rhyme skillz. She made it cool to be kinky, to be brown, to have full lips, & big eyes. Her sexy quotient came the way true sexy does—from the inside out, & spared us the excessive T&A that we had to suffer through Trina, Foxxy, & Kim.
She validated us Wordy Girls & made it cool to have a vocabulary.
This phenom arrived on the playground flanked by 2 male counterparts, neither of which had her lyrical prowess. Eventually she shook them like Destiny did her children & went on to write the soundtrack to EVERY brown female twennysomething's life. Our insecurities, wants, desires, & our loves most of all, were were sung in soulful, sultry, smoky tones. We were the Lost Ones & Lauryn found us & lead us to the promised land. 12 years, 1 Wyclef, 1 insignificant Marley son, 5 kids, & 1 unknown diagnosis later, the fans wait with baited breath to experience the so-called return of this music icon. I experienced the beginning of it this past Summer on the Rock the Bells tour. My annual ritual was shat upon by Lauryn's CP time & then what felt like musical disrespect.
Blogs are all abuzz after each appearance or lack thereof. The fans tend to be wearing disappointment like veils & carrying signs as captions. A collective tsk tsk from the fans. I've been quiet, as this all goes down, until now. Several friends over the past 2 weeks have posted on Facebook about going to see L. Boogie. I felt like I should've given them the warning I received when I said I was going to see her. Not wanting to be labeled a “Hater,” I let it ride & just said I couldn't wait to hear the reviews. A couple later posted about her tremendous artistry & daring attempts at creating a new lane in music, making sure to add that it was only obvious if you were willing to basically get over yourself & your general expectations of music. In other words, if you were willing to go to the show with subzero expectations, toss aside the joys of music, & layer that intermittently with advanced forgiveness, then you can find the genius in Lauryn's new style. Other friends, most of them, seemed to feel what I felt when I saw her in August.
The Artist Formerly Known As Lauryn Hill has died. I haven't found her stone & epitaph, but she's dead. She's dead in the way Michael Jackson was to most of us of who decided somewhere around Invincible that we just couldn't participate in it anymore. Mike Jack clearly belonged more to the pop world than the sound that birthed him & we got off the bus. The wild marriages, fathering white children, & the whole surgical mask business was just too much for Black America. We sat back & reminisced to the MJ of yesteryear, mourning his death & giving his reincarnation no love & no attention. This is how we were supposed to leave Lauryn. She was supposed to remain in our memory banks, loved always as the 1-album megawatt rapper & songstress. We were supposed to be understanding of her personal issues & respect her inability to carry the weight of all our expectations. None of us can imagine how heavy it must be to walk with 1 album as the sudden musical standard for 2 genres of music—seamlessly blending the 2 in a way that Mary J. Blige couldn't even dream about in her highest state. You know...back when she couldn't spell sober.
We've all heard of the Sophomore Curse—that near guarantee that if you blowuptuate on your 1st go that you can't & won't possibly match or top your success on a 2nd offering. Where could she possibly go after the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill? We all had faith that the galaxy was the limit & she could do it. But what did we know of the fragile fibers of her sanity?? Once I found out, I was comfortable in burning up the CD & resigning myself to downloading or retrieving it from iTunes. What I assume has happened is Rohan's brothers aren't spreading the wealth like they may have previously done. He hasn't strummed no guitars, got his background notes on, stitched a t-shirt, or rolled t'ings for Damian. That means, the Hill-Marley brood needs food. Lauryn's return should be called the Will Work to Live tour.
It's funny how money changes situations
Miscommunication leads to complication
Undoubtedly, those of us who are true stans would rush right out & buy tickets. Essentially it's what has happened. Fans—completely excluding myself from this company because I knew better—only expected that she might lick their 12 year old wounds with a taste of the old Lauryn. Instead, Lady Hill has been performing her old music on a new trip. Acid trip, that is. She's doing some kind of unrehearsed trip-hop. The band didn't seem to know how to keep up & she often seemed annoyed with their inability to get where she was. The melodies were unrecognizable, the melodies absent, the words incoherent. We, the people, literally looked around at each other trying to discern by each other's faces if someone, anyone, was able to decipher the coded message being shouted at us from the stage. None of us left Merriweather Post Pavilion feeling like we'd just been gifted some repackaged genius. Instead we felt that the insane end of Summer heat, the 2 hours she was late for her own appointed stage time, & the lyrical vomiting was the last time she'd rope us in. I felt good being able to distinguish myself from the group in that I knew what to expect, having gotten the call on what she put down in NY the night before, & was only still there to see the artists slotted for the right side of her trashedy of a show.
This begs the question, although I've heard almost nothing ever begs a question & we're all out here throwing that phrase around all willy nilly... As I was saying, the question becomes: is Lauryn Hill a creative genius or just effing crazy? When an artist goes left sonically has that artist failed us? I think all in all we are a forgiving people, waving off the FAILS of our most beloved artists. Mostly, I believe, it's because those artists are apologetic or willing to speak of the risk they purposefully chose to take. Lauryn has offered no other explanation other than her greatness is well worth the weight; & if you aren't down for the weight you can kick rocks barefoot. It's because of this that I have to side with crazy. How else can you explain needing me to pay for your lifestyle but having the tatas to cock your leg up over my head & release? You can't. Therefore, Ms. Hill
My wish is less for Lauryn to return as the artistic evolutionary (the r is NOT missing) that she remains in our hearts & memories, but for her to find peace. It's important to me that she find the same comfort in her familiar that we're all out here searching for. We, however, get to do it from the privacy of our own spotlight-free platforms. I wish for her that tricky word. Balance.
Watch me move.