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When discussing the lineage of the greatest female MCs in rap, Lauryn Hill is a name that is often mentioned with reverence and respect. After making waves in Hollywood with her appearances on the soap opera As the World Turns and the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Hill caught the rap bug, joining forces with high school friend Pras Michel and his friend Wyclef Jean to form the Fugees, releasing their debut album, Blunted on Reality, in 1994 on Ruffhouse. Despite the album performing poorly commercially, tracks like "Vocab," "Nappy Heads" and its Salaam Remi-produced remix caught fire, in large part due to Lauryn's lyrical exploits, which were unlike anything rap fans had heard to that point. Two years later, in 1996, the Fugees released their sophomore album, The Score, which yielded the hit singles "Fu-Gee-La," "Ready or Not," and the group's breakout smash, "Killing Me Softly"—all three of which included show-stealing performances by Hill, further bolstering her popularity as the group's most popular member. The Score would be a massive success both critically and commercially, as the album took home a Grammy for Rap Album of the Year, as well as tallied nearly 20 million albums sold worldwide to date.
However, due to turmoil within the Fugees' camp, the trio would split to pursue solo endeavors, resulting in heavy demand for Hill's own solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which arrived on August 25, 1998. Led by the chart-topping lead single "Doo Wop (That Thing)," a song that showcased Hill's vocal prowess as well as her lyrical ability, The Miseducation... debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, with 422,624 copies sold in its first week, making it the biggest opening sales week for a female artist at the time, regardless of genre. In addition to hit singles like "Ex-Factor" and "Everything Is Everything," The Miseducation... also included classic album cuts like "Lost Ones," "When It Hurts So Bad," and "To Zion," a song dedicated to her newborn child, helping make the album a landmark release and one of the most popular albums of the year. The Miseducation... would go on to sell 20 million copies worldwide and net Hill 10 Grammy nominations in 1999, including Album of the Year, making her the first hip-hop artist to receive the honor.
While Hill never released a proper follow-up to The Miseducation..., and has become one of the more reclusive stars in the genre, she remains a rap goddess and one of the most influential rap artists of all-time, with an album that continues to help push the culture forward, as evidenced by its inclusion into the Library of Congress in 2005.
In celebration of the 20-year anniversary of its release, REVOLT TV spoke to three women in hip-hop about their favorite memories of discovering The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, its status as an undisputed classic, and how it helped alter the playing field for women in rap.
WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF FIRST HEADING THE MISEDUCATION...?
Lexxy: All I could think of was, wow, this is the most amazing way for an artist to explain learning about life and love. I remember being so captivated by her voice and every song seemed to be so raw and unorthodox.
Ill Camille: I remember my pops and I hit VIP [Music] on Slauson [Ave]. He bought me a copy and himself a copy; we ain't wanna share [laughs]. Just seeing the cover alone, I took it in and felt some sort of connection to it before I even pressed play. Me and pops liked to drive around and listen to music and we must have driven around for about three run-backs worth of The Miseducation. Then to hear other people bumpin' it too as we rolled around? Yeah, everybody was tapping in.
Connie Diiamond: I was very young at the time that "Doo-Wop" song stuck to me the most. My aunt would constantly play it Saturday mornings while cleaning and that is when I heard the entire album. It was very refreshing, and I honestly couldn't believe how talented she was. Normally, guys take the limelight, but around this time she was definitely the talk of the town .
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SONG ON THE ALBUM AND WHY?
Lexxy: I have so many favorites, but if I had to pick what song has a special place in my heart: "To Zion." This song touches me so much. [It's about] the unpopular decision to have a child as a woman when others think you have so much life in front of you. She talks about the feeling about having a child and how she's completely filled with joy despite what others told her. Even the ending vocals, her high notes, add so much depth to this song and the meaning beyond. Even the skit at the end, it was so perfect!
Ill Camille: "Final Hour" is, by far, my favorite song, for many reasons. I needed a joint where Lauryn just rhymed top to bottom and she did. Every verse potent, the flow, the message. She balanced talking about womanhood, motherhood, spirituality and being one of the greatest on the mic...perfectly. A close second is "Forgive Them Father." I play this just to remind me that I gotta keep God as a guide.
Connie Diiamond: "Ex-Factor" because it's very relatable! Everyone has had a heartbreak before and "Ex-Factor" really spilled the details of what happens when you are truly in love, the ups and downs, the roller coaster ! It's very heartfelt.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BEAT ON THE ALBUM AND WHY?
Lexxy: "Doo-Wop." It's so consistent and this is definitely hip-hop! It has a way of making you bop your head effortlessly!
Ill Camille: "Final Hour." I heard she produced it.
Connie Diiamond: "Lost Ones." The beat has a phenomenal bounce and the cuts and drops make you wanna go so hard on every bar!
WHICH SONG WOULD YOU HAVE WANTED A GUEST VERSE ON?
Lexxy: "When It Hurts So Bad." I could definitely see myself on that record.
Connie Diiamond: "Lost Ones."
EXPLAIN THE ALBUM'S IMPACT ON HIP-HOP AND THE PERCEPTION OF THE FEMALE MC.
Lexxy: I think it was a breath of fresh air for hip-hop! It showed how vulnerable we are as women, yet also strong. Lauryn basically spoke for every woman and I don't even feel like she tried to! This album is the reason why we have Drake, Nicki Minaj, and the list goes on! Lauryn Hill created a new dynamic with this album in the best way because it was transparent that she was being honest and free.
Ill Camille: The impact is evident. It's heavy and everlasting. We are still measuring many albums to it, to be honest. It set a standard for everybody, whatever class of rapper/mc you felt you were. I think to hear a woman seem so liberated in how she expressed herself and how she chose to construct the album, it made us all respect women rhymers more. I think that made us modern-day women MCs respect ourselves, so much so that I don't use the term "femcee" for that very reason. Lauryn kicked down the door and transcended gender with that album.
Connie Diiamond: The impact was very much surprising in a good way. It's very hard for female MCs to get the credit they deserve for their artistry. She could be one of the reasons that people today have hope and faith that there can be great female MCs without ghostwriting. I'm saying this because in her era, [Lil] Kim was out, Foxy [Brown] was out, and they both had ghostwriters from time to time. Not only that—her album had both rap and R&B soul! Like no other female MC was doing that, period.
WHAT MAKES THE MISEDUCATION... A CLASSIC?
Lexxy: Because everything flowed so fluently. She was so honest and she spoke from her heart. Even for me as an artist, the best music I make is when I'm telling a story, and she gave us stories. She gave us pain, soul, and strength. I think the test to a classic album is playing it years later, and if new generations can feel this same message than it's a classic. All the way down to the skits and the concept of children in school and the youths' input on love. This album is a body of work.
Ill Camille: This album was full-bodied, full of substance, and necessary dialogue. I hadn't heard a project from a woman MC that touched on all of those key life topics, all while keeping the grit that we needed to hear rhyme-wise. It's a little something for everyone on there. Everything congeals together perfectly, and more than that, we get a sense of who Lauryn is/was. She gave us a classic, for real.
Connie Diiamond: The fact that [that] entire album has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality. It's extremely hard nowadays and even back in the days for females to not sell sex with there music.
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