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The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: a perfect album


Image credit: Pitchfork

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the sole solo album released by Jersey-born actress, singer-songwriter, & rapper, Ms Lauryn Hill. Her breakthrough in the music industry came not too long after she landed a few minor roles in pop culture films like King of the Hill & Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. She then joined the multitalented Wyclef Jean & Pras in the early ‘90s to form one of the most iconic hip-hop groups of all time, the Fugees. They released two albums together, forging a blend of hip-hop, soul, & reggae as well as releasing a number of covers. Hill’s solitary solo album was recorded in a myriad of different studios, but she most frequented Tuff Gong in Jamaica—where her sound would evolve in ways to create a masterful fusion of a number of genres.


The Tracklist

"Intro" (0:47): The setting of the album’s story takes place inside a classroom. In this first track, the bell rings, signaling the beginning of class & a teacher begins to take roll. When Lauryn’s name is called, there’s no response—her absence indicates that all the valuable lessons she’s learned in life have come from outside of the classroom.


"Lost Ones" (5:33): Lyrical masterpiece. Literally just died dead. Amazing. Spectacular. Wonderful. Beautiful. Gorgeous. There really is nothing more to say…it’s unbelievably good.


"Ex-Factor" (5:26): Oh my god. Oh. My. God. Arguably one of the best songs on the album, Ex-Factor is about an estranged relationship—illustrating the painstaking cycles of love with both oneself & others. Covered by Beyoncé & HER, even sampled on Drake’s ‘Nice For What,’ the impact of this song has reverberated throughout time—getting better with each listen.


"To Zion" (6:08): This track is all about the unconditional love of a mother & teaching the listener that the decision to follow your heart, more specifically God, is the most important thing one can do.

Cover for “To Zion”, image via Genius

"Doo Wop (That Thing)" (5:19): In the fifth song, Hill warns us of the dangers of materialism & to value what we have to give from within. She reminds us to never settle for less than what we deserve & to not reward the bare minimum given to us.


"Superstar" (4:56): This track is dedicated to what we will leave behind us, making meaningful connections & doing meaningful things. She highlights the importance of making meaningful art in the music industry, a sentiment she echoes in many of her interviews.


"Final Hour" (4:15): The seventh track of the album is all about self-reflection & the need we should have to better ourselves. Through her clever wordplay, she reveals how materialism clouds our judgement & eats away at the beauty of life.


"When It Hurts So Bad" (5:42): Zeroed in on the salvaging of toxic love, track eight has no true finality. It insinuates that the girl has one of two choices—to do what she needs & truly wants, leave him; or, try & work out the relationship somehow.


"I Used To Love Him" (5:39): A direct follow-up to the previous track, “I Used To Love Him” displays Lauryn’s expertise in relaying the feeling of pain through her lyricism.


"Forgive Them Father" (5:15): This track is a pivotal point on the album & in the storyline of the character Lauryn is playing. The title of the track is taken from Luke 23 in the Bible, where Jesus, on the cross states, “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.” She mentions many biblical figures in the song as she illustrates the deception she’s faced in the industry—ultimately teaching us about the importance of forgiveness.


"Every Ghetto, Every City" (5:14): This song is essentially a 5-minute mini autobiography of Lauryn’s life. Beginning with an electric clavinet solo then the gradual build of the drums & hardcore bass, Hill sings about the fun she had & the inspiration she’s drawn from growing up in the hood during the late ‘80s/early ’90s. The song bears many similarities to Stevie Wonder’s approach to funk, both lyrically & musically, & even references his song “I Wish” in the lyrics.


"Nothing Even Matters" (5:49): On this track, Hill collaborates with singer-songwriter D’Angelo. It’s a soulful song about love so strong that “nothing even matters” & that the way we define ourselves should be based on those we love. It’s a true testament to Lauryn’s luring lyricism & her ability to collaborate so beautifully with others.


Lauryn Hill & D’Angelo photographed together, image via RnB Magazine

"Everything Is Everything" (4:58): Here, Hill sums up what the second half of the album aims to communicate: that the world is unforgivingly cruel, but we decide what type of person we’re going to be.


"The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill" (4:17): In the title track of the album, Lauryn is reflecting the current state of her well-being. She reminisces on the simpler times in her life, questioning the values of those around her—concluding that all she needs is God’s strength to continue on.


"Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (3:41): Completed in one take during Hill’s pregnancy, this song is a cover of the classic by Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons. Originally recorded for the movie Conspiracy Theory, Lauryn’s remake ended up on the radio & became so popular that she decided to make it a bonus track.


"Tell Him" (4:38): The final track, not included in the original LP, is a love song—either to a lover or God. Like the rest of the album, it’s laden with biblical references—both directly quoting & paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 13:4, in which Apostle Paul details the subject of love. Backed by a hard-hitting beat, robust bass line, & rhythmic guitar, “Tell Him” is the perfect closing to this perfect album.


Closing

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill went platinum in less than a month, & earned Hill a historic 5 Grammys at the 41st Grammy Awards. In interviews, she acknowledged the album title, stating that “miseducation” should be taken as a “reeducation,” & that the album is an amalgamation of lessons that came from places that most wouldn’t expect. Past every accredit & award it’s received, it’s nothing short of intimate & raw in all the best ways—undoubtedly one of the best albums of all time.

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