Saturday, October 18, 2008

Me & Lauryn Hill: An Evolution


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. 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.

Recently there were complaints about the fact the neither VH1's 
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.


Otis Khounlo said...

Lauryn has always been a great influence... At first I was in love with her voice. The first time I actually heard her sing was in the movie Sister Act 2. After that I followed her through their Blunted on Reality and the Score... I loved The Score that was one of my favorite albums of all time! Lauryn's solo album Miseducation was a total change of what I'm use to by her but it's a good change, it was so real and you're taken on the same trip throughout her album. There was rumors way back that she was going to come out with something but that was way back in probably early 2000's haha doesn't look like that's going to happen. I do wish some big even will acknowledge her someway or another or she'll be lost in music history.

Triple B said...

I didn't love the Score, but I loved Lauryn with every fiber of my being. In middle school, I won a talent show performing "Fu-gee-la" and the boys liked me for a day. When The Miseducation came out a few years later, it was over. Between her and Erykah, I was going through my own revolution in high school in Miami and nobody couldn't tell me nothing. I didn't lock my hair or wrap my head or aspire to be an emcee or change my clothes, but their albums helped me find all the poetry I had inside of me.
I remember when both performed at a Bob Marley Festival when I was 15 and I had to walk away from my friends and just cry after Lauryn sang Zion. There was something about seeing this super intelligent, dark-skinned, beautiful young mother that reconstructed my perception of myself and made me realize maybe I was valuable after all.
We haven't had anyone quite like her since, have we?
I mean, I keep Stacy Epps and Emoni Fela in my ears - but they haven't risen to Lauryn's heights. That's okay though. Look at all the amazing talent she left in her wake. I don't wait for Lauryn anymore. If she comes around, great, but I think she's contributed more than enough.

When I think about our image and representations, I always come back to my belief that popular culture will never represent Black women in a way that I find acceptable. We are visible, but we don't own the networks that make us visible.
So I turn my eyes and ears elsewhere, seeking kindred spirits on the street, the internet, the history books, the late night spots, my family...

Triple B said...

Also, Dave's response to your question is hilarious!

M.Dot. said...

but their albums helped me find all the poetry I had inside of me.
Thats real spit.

When I think about our image and representations, I always come back to my belief that popular culture will never represent Black women in a way that I find acceptable.
Yeah. But still is some sobering shit.

Thank you for your comment. I twittered last week
that I wanted to write the Lauryn memoir, after reading Faith's and Kim Osorio' post is about me sending that out into the universe....

Yeah..Dave was like...Crazy assed Oakland girl....LOLs..

M.Dot. said...

Otis, thank you for your comment.

Your response reminds me how much of a EMOTIONAL reaction her music elicits.

She is that deal.

the prisoner's wife said...

interesting. i love(d) lauren & miss her. i liken her to d'angelo and the voodoo album. an amazing offering that we may never see again.

i doubt she will fade into obscurity, simply due to the impression she left on the world. it's been 10 years since "Miseducation..." and we STILL beggin for an album. she on some hip hop Sade tip.

i remember reading about all the artists she was pulling to work with her on the follow-up, but nothing seemed to come together. i wonder tho, if she continues to put it off...will people still be as excited, say in 5 years?

i hope so.

Rafi said...

It probably didn't help with Dave that that was one of Pos' verses.

M.Z. said...

Man I love Lauryn, but if she can't put out song strong music(in any sense) I'd rather her stay away. I wish I had gone and seen her in high school when I had the chance.

Can't believe you didn't like The Score back in the either....

Model Minority said...

@ Rafi.

And the award for Snarkiest internet personality goes toooo....Rafester....Glad you enjoyed the piece...

Nope, I didn't like IT and I had a homie that worked at Sony so I got all their stuff for free. I sold the score on Telegraph ave in Berkeley for 5-$6.

Anonymous said...

When I think about our image and representations, I always come back to my belief that popular culture will never represent Black women in a way that I find acceptable.

Jack Dawson

Alcohol Rehab

edgar c. said...

"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
And time it turned,
He tried to burn me like a perm
Though my eyes saw the deception, My heart wouldn't let me learn
From um, some, dumb woman, was I,
And everytime he'd lie, he would cry and inside I'd die.
My heart must have died a thousand deaths
Compared myself to Toni Braxton thought I'd never catch my breath
Nothing left, he stole the heart beating from my chest
I tried to call the cops, that type of thief you can't arrest
Pain suppressed, will lead to cardiac arrest
Diamonds deserve diamonds, but he convinced me I was worth less
when my peoples would protest,
I told them mind their business, cause my s*** was complex
More than just the sex
I was blessed, but couldn't feel it like when I was caressed
I'd spend nights clutching my breasts overwhelmed by God's test
I was God's best contemplating death with a Gillette
But no man is ever worth the paradise MANIFEST"

that verse made me a believer when I heard it for the first time...

I was about 14 or 15...

that shit blew my mind...I was still growing lyrically and that verse was one of those that made me wanna step my game up...HEAVY...EXTRA HEAVY

like the fact that she was a woman was irrelevant at that point...

I was like, "Lauryn...I'm a wreck you on this lyrical sh*t man..."

and I still haven't (or at least I wouldn't say so) but I've definitely grown a lot more...

Its like Crooked I said, "I came up with rappers that had already set the bar really high so all this new stuff...that's not that ill to me...cause It hasn't even reached the bar yet..."

I'm still trying to knock those guys/girls out...


Maria Palma said...

Ah, yes, Lauryn Hill. I do miss her cool vibes and voice. She's probably the only woman in the Hip Hop community that I look up to. I have a feeling, though, that she'll be back soon.

I am not Star Jones said...

To me, your evolution about your feelings about Lauryn's place in the world and your connection to her music is a testament to her power as an artist. She grew and so did you...I think that's what transformative art should do.

I await Lauryn and the next Lauryn as well. In the interim, I curl up with Miseducation on a weekly basis.

Model Minority said...

@ EC
like the fact that she was a woman was irrelevant at that point.
That rocks. I mean, it gets the side eye, but it rocks as well.

She grew and so did you...I think that's what transformative art should do.
Feel me. Who knew?

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