The first time I heard Lauryn Hill, was probably a single from
the Blunted on Reality album and I hated it. At that time
it appeared to be crazy gimmicky.
I didn't like The Fugees and I didn't like The Score. The Score took an L
because in many ways, it was accessible, cross over Boom Bap.
Many folks who knew how much I liked rap, and hip hop heads in general
felt that it should get a pass. I was like, eehhhhnnn no. I can also admit
now that I was lightweight hating. She was fly, fresh and a B-girl. It was
perhaps a knee jerk, "There can only be one of us" reaction.
In addition, as a teenager I was heavily influenced by Islam and subsequently,
I felt that Lauryn should wear more clothes. I know, hard to believe,
Ms. M.dot actually had something to say about the clothing of that a
woman wears. But it was true.
The fact that I used to believe that back in the day goes to the notion
that we don't become who we are over night.
While I was certainly familiar with feminist politics then, I didn't have
a historical understanding that would allow me to question WHY it
was any of my business how scantily clad L was in the first place.
Remember when Dave said on Stakes is High, " The underground is about
not being exposed, so you better take ya naked ass and put on some clothes"?
Well, In my mind that was directed towards over exposed rappers in general
but could be applied to Lauryn as well. In fact, when De La came to 'Frisco to
perform, I asked Dave whether he meant that line for L and he looked at me
and was like, "nah, uhhhh, nah".
When she came out with Miseducation, I warmed up. From beginning
to end, the album was what she was going through in her life.
Not entirely self destructive, a little heavy handed, and perhaps most
importantly, really human.
As I have gotten older my thinking about clothes, presentation
and human beings has changed over time. I now realize that
not only do I not want anyone talking about how short or tight my
skirt is, I have also come to realize that it is none of my business
what L wears as well.
I also realize that, and Erykahs recent pregnancy certainly underscores this,
that as Black women, many folks feel that they have say so in what
we choose to do with our bodies. I find this intriguing given
the unbelievable pass given to Black men such as Puffy, R.Kelly, Akon given
their relationship and or sexual practices.
Which brings me back to Lauryn. I miss her. As I think about these
Hip Hop and feminism study groups I wonder what her music
would sound like today. I wonder what the beats would sound
like, who she would be collaborating with and how much being
a mom would play into her music.
Hip Hop Honors and BET's Hip Hop awards nominated a single
woman. An anonymous source said that the reason why
there were fewer women emcees being launched on major labels
their hair and make up costs are expensive. You and I both know
that this is a lie, as record companies will invest millions into an
artist if they believe that the return on investment. So I am suppose
to believe hair weaves and mac eye shadow run into the tens of thousands
for female emcees? Besides grooming costs are irrelevant as artists are
responsible for paying back the labels for money that they spend on an artist.
The fact that there are no women were nominated for BET Awards or for a
Hip Hop Honors award underscores the significance of seeing Lauryn's
image in pop culture. There she was, petite, chocolate brown and
a mane of natural hair. Then and now, we are not allowed to be
represented like that in pop culture.
That being said, Lauryn if you are out there, we are waiting for you.
To the young woman who sees her self as the next Lauryn Hill, we
are waiting for you as well.