Pin It
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill pens essay responding to claims she ‘stole’ music

Jazz pianist and producer Robert Glasper previously said that the artist had also docked musicians’ pay on a whim

Ms. Lauryn Hill has not given an interview for a decade, but over the weekend she spoke her mind in a lengthy essay on Medium. While the essay is ostensibly a response to recent accusations by jazz pianist and producer Robert Glasper that she had “stolen” music and cut musicians’ pay, it also provides an insight into the artist’s creative process.

Glasper originally made the accusations on Houston radio station KBXX, saying that Hill had “stolen all of (his) friends’ music” during the making of Miseducation. The collective of musicians who worked on the record previously sued Hill over writing credits in a lawsuit that was settled in 2001. Glasper, who played in Hill’s band in 2008, also accused the artist of being harsh on her bandmates, docking their pay on a whim: “Every day she comes in and changes the show, changes what she wants to do,” Glasper said. “The last rehearsal, she doesn’t show up. Her manager comes in and says, ‘Lauryn’s not really feeling the way you guys have been learning the music, so we’re gonna cut your pay in half.’”

In her essay, Hill says that she “may not have established the necessary boundaries” for working with musicians outside of her former band The Fugees, but adds that she has no “details or recollection” of cutting her bandmates’ pay. “I’m confused as to why such a principled musician, who thought I ‘stole’ from his friends, would show up to work for me anyway,” she says of Glasper.

The essay coincides with the 20th anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the artist’s only solo album, and breaks down the process behind the record in a series of bullet points. It also explores topics such as racial justice, her treatment as a woman, and her approach to performing live. “I chose to wait until after the anniversary to post this. Thank you everyone for the Love! I’d like to clear a few things up,” she wrote on Twitter.

Glasper previously said that Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, and Herbie Hancock were artists who could “be cool” to fellow musicians, and as such Hill “should be able to be cool” too. “You haven’t done enough to be the way you are. You just have not. The one thing you did that was great (Miseducation), you didn’t do,” he said. In response, Hill writes that “I adore Stevie, and honor Herbie and Quincy, who are our forebears, but they’re not women. Men often can say ‘I want it done like this’ and not be challenged. The same rules don’t always apply for women who may be met with resistance. When this happens you replace that player with someone who respects you and the office you hold.”

Hill also uses the essay to clear up a longstanding rumour around her live performances – namely that she plays different interpretations of Miseducation songs during her live shows because she does not have the legal rights to the original arrangements. “The myth that I’m not allowed to play the original versions of my songs is…a myth (anyone who’s seen my current show knows this),” she writes.

“No matter how incredible the musicians who play with me are, MY name is on the marquee,” she adds. “The expectation to make it all come together is on me. The risk and the financial losses are on me. Hence, MY VIBE, though not the only consideration, is the priority.”

Read the full essay on Medium, and revisit our article “Seven things The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill taught us about love”.