The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is overrated. There I said it. It’s been a thought in my head ever since it dropped in 1998. I hadn’t ever spoken that publicly. I felt I would get destroyed by friends and peers alike by speaking that out loud. I’m supposed to go nuts over the combination of singing, rapping and instrumentation displayed throughout the album. I’m supposed to identify that the album resonates with a generation of young-ins that were going though various relationship issues at the time. What I do identify with is one simple concept: The album reeks of mediocrity.
Now I must give some foreground into my thought process. I absolutely LOVE L-Boogie. I love her so much that I can say that the artist formerly known as L-Boogie is a Top 10 rapper of all time in my book and that’s based purely off her work on The Score. No female emcee in my lifetime has come on a track and had bars that made the males on the track irrelevant, although it must be noted that Wyclef and Pras weren’t that relevant to begin with but alas it was clear that L-Boogie was a comet. A force with a voice that grabbed your ears, mind and soul. I would preach on the Q5 bus, various dollar vans and Hillcrest High School hallways to anyone who would dare to debate the greatness of L-Boogie.
Then “Killing Me Softly” ruined everything.
The crossover hit brought attention to the artist currently known as Lauryn Hill. Never mind that she can rap, the focus shifted to her singing. Her raps were secondary as she sang in movies and the highlight of every Fugees show became her closing with ‘Killing Me Softly.” When Hill was L-Boogie people already said she should go solo but it was underground hip hop heads who were stating it. It was getting to hear her murder tracks by herself without being subjected to a 6-8 bar verse from Pras. Now fresh off the success of “Killing Me Softly,” the viewpoint changed to the world now wanting to hear her sing and also rap a little.
The Miseducation was going to be the best of both worlds, the hip hop crowd would get great bars from L-Boogie by herself and the pop world would get awesome singing from Lauryn Hill. Instead we got a heavy dosage of Lauryn Hill with a slight sprinkle of L-Boogie.
When she got in pocket the results are great: “Lost Ones,” “Doo Wop” and “Everything is Everything” are tracks that melt her introspective rhymes with her vocal ability similar to her work on The Score. Even “Ex-Factor” and “Nothing Even Matters” knock hard despite highlighting her singing more than anything else. It’s the rest of the album that suffers.
At one point in the album you have six lackluster tracks in a row. I skipped those tracks today on my second playback of the record to refresh my memory of Miseducation. Starting with “Superstar” and ending with “Every Ghetto, Every City” you have a artist who seems lost and confused as to whether to showcase her rhymes or voice.
We get three verses from her on “Final Hour” but yet there are no memorable rhymes and her message seems cluttered with wanting to talk about social issues. On “Forgive Them Father” her average singing outshines her uninspired bars. Her rhymes seemed to now incorporate her take on worldly matters, where her scope was largely domestic on The Score. I don’t knock her for speaking on larger issues but I will knock her for her execution. The songs do not resonate. The album has a sliver of greatness on a couple songs but the rest is just a cloudy mess of emotions and ramblings sung over lackluster tracks.
Outside of the singles, the album does not have songs that live up to expectations. “To Zion” is a song about her first child and while having Carlos Santana playing guitar must have been a cool and surreal moment, the track does nothing for me and I don’t feel that I need to have a child or go through a potential abortion to feel the song. The title track closes out the album with a muted thud, just lacking anything of substance.
The album went on to sell eight million copies in the U.S. and she racked up five Grammys therefore leading reviewers and experts to preach about the greatness of this record. It was the supposed creation of the neo-soul era and Hill was going to spearhead it. You had to get in front of it to seem to be in the know. Co-sign the greatness of Miseducation and you were accepted and smarter for it. The shill level for Miseducation was as high as I had ever seen since Illmatic dropped back in 1994.
Classic albums stand the test of time, not only singles but the whole catalog of the album are memorable. I defy anyone to tell me that their favorite song on Miseducation is something other than a single. Think to yourself right now, when was the last time you played The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill? Before re-listening to it today to write this piece (thanks to Will Carroll for the Spotify account because there’s no way I would waste hard drive space by downloading this album) it had been over a decade since hearing it.
You have to understand that I so wanted for that record to be dope. I wanted it to be a classic, I wanted to have a L-Boogie album with hooks by Lauryn Hill. What I got was a Lauryn Hill album featuring L-Boogie and that by no means is a classic.