Lauryn Hill transcends musical culture through truth, freedom, and passion
Urban music culture has progressed a lot over the years. In the past, musicians would always complain about feeling limited. This is because record companies typically control the images and music releases of their signed artists.
Today, there are plenty of artists who put out music that varies in sound and style. Many artists cross over into several genres throughout their careers. We are also seeing more artists incorporate singing and rapping into their music alternating between the two.
Lauryn Hill is one of the first artist to showcase singing and rapping in an entrancing way. Her musical influence opened doors for female artists while simultaneously transcending Hip Hop and R&B. Her contributions remain a pivotal predecessor for what we see in today’s music.
Lauryn Noelle Hill was born in May of 1975, in East Orange, New Jersey. Her family is musically inclined and while she was growing up they all enjoyed music together. Her father sang and her mother played the piano. She freely expressed her talent and went on to impress faculty and peers singing the National Anthem in middle school. The all liked it so much it was recorded and used at all future home games.
In 1998 she sang at Apollo and did not get that same reaction. She actually cried after leaving the stage because they did not take well to her performance. In high school, she was a member of the track team, a cheerleader, took violin lessons, dance class, and founded her school’s gospel choir. She also excelled in her academics.
History in the making
As a freshman in high school, she was approached by Prakazrel “Pras” Michel about starting a music group. Eventually, Michel’s cousin, multi-instrumentalist Wyclef Jean was added to the group. Soon after that, the group began performing in local showcases and high school talent shows. Lauryn was the group’s vocalist but she wanted to rap along beside her band-mates so she studied and began working to protect her craft.
As all of this was happening, she was also making a name for herself as an actress. She had the opportunity to star alongside Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act II which also allowed her to showcase her vocal ability to the masses. In 1993 she graduated high school and signed a record deal with her group The Fugees.
The group’s first album release didn’t do well, however, Lauryn Hill clearly stood out as a star early on. Their second album, The Score was released in 1996 peaking at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200. It stayed in the top ten of that chart for over half a year selling about six million copies in the United States and more than 17 million copies worldwide.
It was always extremely important to Lauryn to create positive music in her career. Her talent, her looks, and her voice were making a strong impact on music and pop culture. At this point in her career, she founded the Refugee Project, which is a non-profit outreach organization. Its mission was to transform the attitudes and behavior of at-risk urban youth. She went on to take more positive actions through various other philanthropic efforts.
Stand for something or fall for anything
In 1997 the group disbanded to pursue solo careers and Lauryn’s buds started to blossom. She recorded her solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill from late 1997 through June 1998 after becoming a new mother. Her goal was to deliver an album of pure authentic passion that was positively articulate. Her highly anticipated album was released in August of 1998 to rave reviews selling 8 million copies in the U.S. and 12 million worldwide.
At the 1999 Grammy Awards, Lauryn Hill became the first woman to be nominated in ten categories in a single year. She made history again that same night, by becoming the first woman to win five times in one night. This was a major mainstream win for the entire Hip Hop community.
She continued to make huge strides in her career producing and writing hits for herself and others. All the while she was in the public eye speaking freely about her personal beliefs. Subsequently, Lauryn fell out of the public eye around the year 2000. Her authentic view of the world was starting to clash with the politics of her career and the music business. Her new sense of self did not sit right with most of the world and due to this her reappearance in 2002 was not well received.
Despite the backlash and mixed reviews, 2.0 debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 without the help of radio-play. The album has been certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA. Lauryn Hill still continues to lend her voice and efforts to entertainment and social causes. She is legendary and her legacy is still very much in the process of being built.
Lauryn’s story shows us how important it is to have a voice and fight for what you believe in. She persevered through every obstacle both known and unknown while standing firmly on her morals. Her talent and passion were instrumental in creating musical and cultural changes.
If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. That is true for yesterday and it will still be true tomorrow. When you look past the surface of Lauryn Hill’s career and accomplishments, you will see that her purpose goes way beyond music. When you discover your own true purpose you must stand on it and allow nothing or no one to deter you from it. This is what leaders are made of and this is how we will continue to make effective positive change.
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