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19 years later, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ is still influential

If I asked you your thoughts on Lauryn Hill right now, many of you would immediately mention her tendency to show up dumb late to one too many performances.

And while I can’t be mad at you for that, I still have to remind you exactly who the f*ck Ms. Lauryn Hill really is.

Before SZA’s Ctrl, before Solange’s A Seat at the Table, before Lemonade, we were blessed with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

The art of creating a masterpiece inspired by a broken heart wasn’t invented by Lauryn, but she mastered the craft effortlessly, and she did it on her first solo album.

While Lauryn paints a picture of struggle, pain, and heartache, she’s been quoted saying that it was mainly betrayal that inspired her work.

“The album is not about me bein’ upset about a love lost. It’s not even really about bein’ upset about bein’ stabbed in the back.”

I was six years old when The Miseducation dropped on August 25, 1998. I’ve grown with this album, each year being able to understand it a little more than the last.

I remember listening to “Ex-Factor” (track #3) on repeat 10 years after it dropped, a naive 16-year-old girl who had no clue what being in love even felt like. However, Lauryn made me want to know.

She showed us the ugly side of love, not that fairy tale bullshit. I damn near wanted my heart broken just so I could feel her pain.

Eventually, I got exactly what I wished for and everything came full circle as I found myself listening to The Miseducation as I cried myself to sleep, finding comfort in knowing that my hurt wasn’t an isolated experience just for me.

Lauryn bared her soul and the rest of us were hooked. The Miseducation broke the first-week sales record for female artists and sold over 420,000 copies in its first week.

Lauryn didn’t only break barriers for women, though. Her solo album was also the first hip-hop album to win a Grammy for “Album of the Year.” With all the notoriety her album received, it was a surprise to me to see that the Fugees didn’t initially support her solo career.

Apparently, she dipped off on the group after seeing that they were working on everyone’s solo album but her own. She was quoted saying, “I don’t wanna f*ck with them, I just wanna get a whole new crew.” Yeah, that’s a Jersey girl for you.

Before her complete departure, she agreed to lay the hook down for the song, “Ready Or Not.” She stormed out of the session in tears, but we were given a musical gem. Rumors continued to spin surrounding her relationship with Wyclef.

He was married at the time and apparently, she led him to believe that the child she was pregnant with was his. He made it known that he was flying out to be by her side to bring this new child into the world. Was Lauryn’s secret propelling her art?

Was one of the most impactful artists of our time a “side chick”? It definitely made me listen to “Zion” a little more closely.

The child ended up being fathered by Rohan Marley, Bob Marley’s son, whom Lauryn had begun seeing at the time of the promotion tour for The Score. Messy. Wyclef wasn’t trying to let that go.

“I was married and Lauryn and I were having an affair, but she led me to believe that the baby was mine, and I couldn’t forgive that.”

Lauryn smartly never spoke directly on the matter. She only covered it through song. Through her lyrics, she alleged abuse, rejection, and thoughts of suicide:

“You see I loved hard once, but the love wasn’t returned, I found out the man I’d die for, he wasn’t even concerned…Diamonds deserve diamonds, but he convinced me I was worthless…I was God’s best contemplating death with a Gillette, but no man is ever worth the paradise manifest.”

Basically, Clef did a number on her. This ongoing lover’s quarrel was a testament to the hottest love having the coldest end.

Clef continued to throw shade on her claiming that he was the mastermind behind the Fugees and proof was that she wasn’t able to produce anything outside of The Miseducation.

It’s still unclear whether it was Lauryn’s rebellion or Wyclef’s need for control and credit that led to the breakup of the Fugees. Ultimately, it gave her the confidence to step out on her own and create the lyrical masterpiece we have today.

Lauryn went ghost for what seemed like a decade. She refused to do interviews and she was rumored to be dealing with bipolar disorder, growing tired of the shady dealings of the music business, and searching for spiritual direction.

In 2013, Hill was jailed for tax evasion. She had multiple disappearances from the spotlight, erratic performances, lawsuits over songwriting credits, and an array of other issues. Shorty had a lot on her plate.

She was actually in jail when The Miseducation turned 15. Now that it’s a year shy of being 20 years old, we can only revel in the messiness that contributed to this masterpiece.

Lauryn has since re-emerged on the scene, giving EDM vibes at Afropunk and headlining shows with Nas and Dave Chappelle.

I’m here for it, Lauryn.