Lauryn Hill

Essential Albums

  • The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

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About Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill is rap’s greatest “what if” story. Born in East Orange, New Jersey, in 1975, Hill befriended fellow musicians Prakazrel “Pras” Michel and Wyclef Jean, and in 1990 they formed a group called Tranzlator Crew—soon to be known as the Fugees. Though she was the act’s de facto singer, Hill found inspiration in the cultural activism of Ice Cube and Eazy E, and her gifts as both a rapper and a world-class singer were on abundant display in the band’s 1996 version of Roberta Flack's “Killing Me Softly.” The Grammy Award-winning single anchored the Fugees’ chart-topping second album, The Score, and while it was the group’s last record together, it was merely the beginning of Hill’s story. In 1998, she released her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which amply proved that female MCs shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens in the rap industry’s hierarchy. Her flow was relentless yet inviting, a mix of swagger and sway. Hill changed the game not just for women in rap but for rap in general: Miseducation was the first rap album to ever win Album of the Year at the Grammys. But after that monumental achievement, Hill effectively turned into the J.D. Salinger of hip-hop, retreating into a life of seclusion from which she has rarely returned. Her divisive MTV Unplugged set from 2002 saw Hill eschew hip-hop almost entirely, abandoning her deeply powerful boom-bap beats in favor of acoustic folk renditions of her songs. Yet her legacy lives on in those who have followed: There would be no Cardi B, no Nicki Minaj without Lauryn Hill, and she’s been sampled by hip-hop royalty like Drake, Meek Mill, and J. Cole. Regardless of how often or what she performs, Hill's pulse will always be heard within hip-hop.

East Orange, NJ, United States
May 26, 1975

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