Raised in South Orange, New Jersey, Hill began singing with her music-oriented family during her childhood. She enjoyed success as an actress at an early age, appearing in a recurring role on the television soap opera As the World Turns and starring in the film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. In high school, Hill was approached by Pras Michel to start a band, which his cousin Wyclef Jean soon joined. They renamed themselves the Fugees and released two studio albums, Blunted on Reality (1994) and the Grammy Award-winning The Score (1996), which sold six million copies in the United States. In the latter record, Hill rose to prominence with her African-America and Caribbean music influences, her rapping and singing, and a rendition of the hit "Killing Me Softly". Hill's tumultuous romantic relationship with Jean led to the split of the band in 1997 to focus on solo projects.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) remains Hill's only solo studio album. It received massive critical acclaim, showcasing a representation of life and relationships and finding a contemporary feminist voice with the neo soul genre. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and has sold approximately eight million copies there. It included the singles "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (also a number one), "Ex-Factor", and "Everything Is Everything". At the 41st Grammy Awards, the record earned her five awards, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist. She won numerous additional awards and became a common sight on the cover of magazines.
Soon afterward, Hill dropped out of the public eye, suffering from the pressures of fame and dissatisfied with the music industry. Her last full-length recording, the new-material live album MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2001), sharply divided critics and did not sell nearly as well. Hill's subsequent activity has been sporadic; she has occasionally released songs and performed at music festivals. Her appearances in concert have been erratic and sometimes caused audience dissatisfaction; a reunion with her former group did not last long. Although The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill focused primarily on love, Hill's work with the Fugees and recent repertoire has been heavily focused on social injustice. It is also concerned with racism and female empowerment, and she has issued a series of public statements critical of pop culture and societal institutions. Hill has six children, five of whom are with Rohan Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley. In 2012, she pled guilty to tax evasion for failure to pay federal income taxes, and in 2013, served a three-month prison sentence.
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