Two decades since its release, there's still a lot to learn from the critically acclaimed album
Twenty years ago today, Lauryn Hill blessed the world with her groundbreaking debut and only solo studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Earning the singer 10 Grammy nominations, five wins, including Best New Artist and Album of the Year, Hill set a new record as the first woman to receive that many awards in one night.
Just a year before Hill dropped her first solo record, her band the Fugees had broken up, her tumultuous relationship with ex-bandmate, Wyclef Jean, had come to an end and she had just given birth to her son.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill shows a personal side to the singer that was never explored during her time with the Fugees. Baring her soul and exploring love in its many forms, she takes us through a journey of heartbreak, newfound joy and spirituality. From light-hearted skits to passionate ballads, the singer shifts from her raspy gentle vocals to spitting bars with an effortless flow that still sounds thrilling in 2018. Fusing the emerging sound of neo-soul with hip hop, and integrating groovy layers of gospel, reggae and funk into the mix, Lauryn Hill excelled in producing one of the most innovative projects ever to be created.
But it wasn’t just musically forward-thinking – it was full of invaluable wisdom too. Here are just some of the love lessons you can take away from the artist’s masterpiece.
“LOVING YOU IS LIKE A BATTLE, AND WE BOTH END UP WITH SCARS”
It’s fair to say that Lauryn has a had her fair share of heartbreak, and on her 1998 single, “Ex-Factor”, one of the most famous tracks from Miseducation, she shows us how it’s done. Her incredibly honest lyrics trace the confusion that comes with separating from someone who you both love deeply and have been hurt by. It’s rare to hear those internal and external battles articulated so powerfully in a song – 20 years later, it’s still one of the best.
“MY HEART IS GOLD, I TOOK BACK MY SOUL”
Miseducation not only celebrates great love – it also lays out a blueprint for the kind of love that should be avoided. The Mary J. Blige-assisted “I Used to Love Him” is one of the greatest break-up songs ever written; while the title suggests it might be a melancholy song, the reality is it’s super uplifting, as both women celebrate being rid of a love that caused them to “cease being a queen”. Controlling love, frustrating love, love that dulls the senses and stops you from being your true self – on this song, Lauryn shows how much better off you are without all of it. Or as she puts it, “My soul was weary, but now it’s replenished.”
“AND DEEP IN MY HEART, THE ANSWER IT WAS IN ME”
In the album’s titular track, Hill expresses that despite trying to search for something elsewhere, we should look within ourselves, because the real answer is always there.
“HOW YOU GONNA WIN WHEN YOU AIN’T RIGHT WITHIN?”
And, most importantly, before you dive into anything, remember to love yourself first. Love isn’t always about “that thing” – as RuPaul says, if you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?
“YOU MIGHT WIN SOME, BUT YOU JUST LOST ONE”
One thing about Lauryn Hill is that she doesn’t hold back, and on “Lost One”, the singer gets everything off her chest. Recorded at the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica, this raw hip hop track teaches us to speak our truth without shame – and in this case, that means telling an ex that they've lost the best person they could’ve ever had. In the words of Hill, “What a bam-bam!”
“TELL HIM I LOVE HIM”
It’s always okay to embrace and express how you feel. As Lauryn puts it, on the album’s tender closer: “If I lack love, then I am nothin’ at all.”
“I’VE NEVER BEEN IN LOVE LIKE THIS BEFORE”
In 1997, Lauryn Hill gave birth to her son, Zion David, who she had with Bob Marley’s son, Rohan Marley. In “To Zion”, the singer discusses uncertainty and concerns surrounding her pregnancy. The passion, the vocal range, the lyrics and the production come together to create one of the most beautiful songs ever committed to record about the way in which the greatest kind of love can be found when you least expect it.