COVER STORY | Ms. Lauryn Hill’s first and only studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, has finally been certified Diamond. It is hard to believe that it has taken 23 years for the 1998 landmark LP to reach the ultimate status, but it’s never too late to shine bright like a diamond.
The achievement makes Ms. Lauryn Hill the first female MC to sell 10 million copies. Announced on February 16, 2021 by The Recording Industry Association of America, Hill joins the diamond club among male rappers, Outkast (Speakerboxx/The Love Below), Eminem (The Marshall Mathers LP), Beastie Boys, The Notorious B.I.G. (Life After Death) and 2Pac (All Eyez On Me). Other albums in the elite group include TLC’s CrazySexyCool, Stevie Wonder’s Song in the Key of Life, Mariah Carey’s Daydream, Nelly’s Country Grammar, Boyz II Men’s II, and Usher’s Confessions.
Breakout star of hip-hop trio, The Fugees, Ms. Lauryn Hill has had a history of making history. She was the first female MC to debut at #1 on Billboard Hot 200 for the legendary debut. At the 41st Annual Grammy Awards, Hill was nominated for 10 awards and earned an unprecedented five trophies, including Album of the Year, Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance – a feat never achieved by a female artist.
Miseducation was an instant classic. Credited with producing, writing and arranging the entire album, the multi-faceted Hill took us on a journey that seamlessly floated from hip-hop to reggae to soul. After penning hits for fellow artists Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, and Aretha Franklin, the stage was set for Hill to tell her own story. From the first school bell, we were transported to the days of homeroom and class periods, certain that this particular lesson was going to be life-changing. Assisted by musical contributions from James Poysner, Vada Nobles, Che Guevara, Tejumold Newton and Johari Newton, with mixing by Commissioner Gordon, our minds were impressionable and we were ready to be schooled.
Beginning with the gritty, snare-drumming promotional single “Lost Ones”, L-Boogie watered her MC roots to acknowledge where her career began. Recording the album while pregnant with her first child, she collaborated with Carlos Santana to deliver an unforgettable and endearing love song, “To Zion”. The album’s official debut single “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was a phenomenal opus that bridged generations with an infectious chorus, conscious lyrical content examining self-worth and nostalgic street corner harmonies over brass horns and piano.
The follow-up single “Ex-Factor” put us all in the space of losing love, even if we were too young to experience the dissolution, we felt every plea to care, give, cry and live for someone. On the album’s third and final single, “Everything Is Everything”, Lauryn examines the struggle of inner-city youth and social injustices through verses and bars. The song also marks the first appearance by a 19-year-old John R. Stephens, now heralded as John Legend, on piano. Standout songs included “I Used To Love Him” featuring Mary J. Blige, “When It Hurts So Bad” and the hidden track “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”. The album’s greatest triumph comes in the fourth quarter on “Nothing Even Matters”, a duet with Neo-Soul monarch, D’Angelo that is soulful, smooth and spacious.
Riding the waves of love and liberation, the 14-track set not only recorded the evolution of a girl becoming a woman and mother; it marked the evolution and validation of soul music’s undeniable presence. Worthy of every praise received, there has yet to be another album in Hip-Hop and R&B to replicate its impact on the genre. Although a second studio album was never released, we are grateful that Ms. Lauryn Hill shared this masterpiece of vulnerability for us to eternally treasure. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill remains a definitive example of what happens when the student becoming the master, using the abrasions of life experience to emerge as flawless as a VVS stone.