By Jay Ray | @jayrayisthename
20 years ago The Fugees' The Score achieved what their debut Blunted On Reality couldn't. The album’s organic sound was crafted by Wyclef Jean, and was anchored by a talented MC/singer, Lauryn Hill, who was ripping mics left and right on guest spots in between albums. It was the kind of record we didn't want to end, and a career we wanted to see flourish. That career didn’t. By 1997 all three members were working on solo efforts, and the group essentially broke up.
The winner of the solo wars - Lauryn Hill.
There are countless think pieces about The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and the decline of Lauryn Hill, following her groundbreaking solo debut. The very public meltdown. The false start album release rumors. Questions about mental health and mental illness. The jail stint. Most infamously, however, the lawsuit over production credit that more or less derailed what was poised to be a stellar solo career.
Somewhere between 2001 and 2005 Lauryn Hill chose to insist she be called Ms. Hill, even to her former bandmates Wyclef and Pras, and this is where things get funky. A Fugees reunion got squashed, reportedly largely because of Ms. Hill. She performed unrecognizable live reworkings of legendary songs and displayed a general disregard for her audience. She often (if not always) appeared late for uneven performances, if appearing at all.
Ms. Hill was scheduled to appear at Atlanta's Chastain Amphitheatre on Friday, May 6, 2016. The performance by most accounts lasted approximately between 20 and 30 minutes. Ms. Hill was late hitting the stage, by more than 2 hours, and the venue ended the show at 11:00 PM. Ms. Lauryn Hill, who hasn’t released a cohesive studio album in now 18 years, still continues to tour regularly, albeit to varying reports about quality. Most consistent, however, is both her tendency to continuously perform unrecognizable renditions of songs that people know backwards and forwards and her incessant tardiness.
You see, Ms. Lauryn Hill has been perpetually miseducated. She’s been led to believe, with our money, that her artistry is worth any price that people are willing to pay for it, and that she can deliver it whenever and however she wants. Now, as an artist, I agree that artistic license is important to self preservation and growth. But, when you are selling your art to a buying public, you’re now operating a business, and as such, you’re expected to deliver what the customer [mostly] wants at the time when they are expected to have it. Say … somewhere around 8PM on May 6, 2016 at Chastain Park in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ms. Lauryn Hill's fans adore her. They adore her despite the fact that her 23+ year career consists of only 4 records of output, one-off soundtrack appearances and a couple singles. Only 2 of those full records are solo work, and only 1 of those records is a studio record. To put that in perspective, Lauryn Hill averages the equivalent of 1 complete album every 5.75 years. Not a terrible average ... except that all of those albums were delivered in the first 8 years of her career. (More perspective, Sade is beating Lauryn's average. Yes, SADE!)
Ms. Hill is often compared to Nina Simone. This comparison is not appropriate, however. Her more appropriate comparison is Axl Rose. Even still, Rose, in a 21 year span of time, managed to release 5 albums (6, if you break “Use Your Illusion” up), beating Hill's 4 albums by one full album and a couple of years.
So not even Ms. Hill has earned the right to not deliver on what the fans payed for. She's owes them, at the very least, a full show and her respect. Don’t keep playing people like they're dumb.
** Jay Ray chose to save his coins and skip the Atlanta show. He's thankful he did. **