Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Misdirection of Lauryn Hill

The first time I saw "Sister Act 2," I was blown completely away by the singing skills of a young lady named Lauryn Hill. I was telling all my friends about this dynamic sister with the honey-coated pipes and I said to them "mark my words, one day she will be a star." Folks laughed at me and called me crazy. I was like "you'll see." A few months later, I was flipping through this magazine called "Vibe" when I stumbled upon a review for a CD by this group called the Fugees. The young lady in the middle of the two dudes looked very familiar to me. "Where have I seen this girl?" I asked myself. I kept on reading and recognized the name: Lauryn Hill. I hopped on the 15 and made my way to Soundwaves where I copped "Blunted on Reality." However, the reality was the CD was horrible.

Still, I thought to myself Lauryn Hill is gonna be big! I tried like hell to give that CD he benefit of the doubt. The production was weak, the lyrics were subpar, and I felt as if Lauryn didn't get a chance to really shine. I was very unimpressed and I ended up giving the CD away. It wasn't until one night I was up late watching videos with Moms that the Fugees came on to do a live spot. The song they performed was "Nappy Heads" and I remembered how they ripped it! Even Moms was hollering "cheeba, cheeba y'all/well I'm a Libra y'all" and I told my man I wanted my CD back. No dice. Had to go and cop another one.

Fast forward to 1996. Tupac was on Death Row and Sean Combs was still Puffy. Word came that the Fugees would be dropping a new project and again, I told everyone to watch out for Lauryn Hill. I was right. "The Score" came and with hits like "Fugee-La," "Cowboys," and Killing Me Softly," there was no way you could get away from the Fugees. Wyclef, Pras, and Lauryn seemed to turn up everywhere you looked. But it's that fame that gets ya everytime. Whereas the Fugees came as a unit, the media singled out Lauryn Hill. It was L-Boogie who was the soul of the group. L-Boogie who was the media darling. L-Boogie with the ill lyrics. After awhile it looked like Lauryn Hill and the Fugees. Everyone wanted her to go solo. Brothers wanted her for a mate and sisters wanted her for some girl time. Overnight, Lauryn became our Aretha, Nina, Patti, Roberta, and Chaka all in one. The Jersey girl had finally made it and cats who laughed in my face two years prior were now calling me on the phone and eating their words.

Then it finally came. After taking some time off to have a child with Rohan Marley, Lauryn blessed us with a masterpiece, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." Sporting a head full of beautiful locs, she became the female version of Nesta. Her face was plastered over magazine covers and her videos were in constant rotation on MTV. By now, the rap community had lost Tupac and Biggie and a void needed to be filled. Suddenly, we had this beautiful and natural sister who had become a role model and a voice for the voiceless. Her songs provoked change and the music moved you something like Stevie in the 70's. Her concerts were sell outs and her records flew out of the bins. It was a conscious party and Lauryn Hill provided the music to have a good time and be mentally stimulated. The tip of the iceberg was her mega-selling opus recieving 5 Grammy awards and being considered a modern day classic.

And it all came crashing down after that.

Maybe the success was too much, too soon. There was talk of Lauryn not being able to handle the pressure of being such a big star. She took a backseat and produced for other artists like Mary J. Blige and Aretha Franklin, but it appeared as if Lauryn was losing ground. Beef with fellow Fugee member Wyclef led to a bitter dispute that was played out in the media. Speculation of her relationship with Rohan not going well was making the rounds and then the accusations of her not producing her CD fueled lots of heat as well. Could it be Lauryn Hill was a fraud? Rumors, rumors, and more rumors dogged her until finally, we got to see for ourselves.

The "MTV Unplugged" was the straw that broke the camel's back. There, sitting on a stool and strumming an out of tune guitar was our L-Boogie. Gone were the beautiful locs, now replaced by a worn-out baseball cap. The glamour was gone and so was the personality. She spoke of not wanting to have anything to do with the past, so she chose to not perform the tunes that made her who she was. Instead, we were subjected to endless chatter about life and it made it so obvious that she was unhappy. The new songs sounded as if they were created on the spot and of course, there were the tears. It just didn't make any sense why this young lady was so unhappy. And why did every interview have to deal with her "letting go" and what was with the new dull and bland look? She said that she was being guided by a spiritual leader and she was shedding negativity. Then she had the nerve to charge ridiculous prices for her work on her website. Hmm... so much for being humbled now that we've found a higher plane, eh?

When Dave Chappelle hosted his block party in Brooklyn in 2004, the highlight was a Fugee reunion. Yes, it made headlines but for some reason, it seemed like it wasn't genuine. In the summer of 2005, they made an appearance on the "BET Awards" that had some people scratching their heads and wondering what was up with Lauryn's appearance. She wore a Carol Channing-like wig and a ruffled shirt and looked as if she missed a few meals. Her singing was off key and the chemistry between the group members was null and void. They gave some lame excuse as to why the performance wasn't so great without acknowledging the truth: it's over.

Really, who wants to buy a 2006 Lauryn Hill? After she's dogged out everything and swore that she wanted nothing to do with "that" lifetsyle, why should I take her serious now? The stories of how she treats people is legendary: not allowing eye contact and talking down to folks. Talk of a new Fugee CD? This is a joke, right? The Black Eyed Peas picked up where they left off.

I bought "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." I'm sorry, but I just can't dig "The Misdirection of Lauryn Hill," too.