It’s been quite a week for Lauryn Hill. The good news: she released ‘Neurotic Society’, her first single for three years. The bad? She’s been sentenced to three months in prison for failing to pay around $1m in taxes over the past decade. What better time to look back on the music history of a legend
Lauryn Noelle Hill was born in New Jersey in 1975. Her first public vocal performance was a shaky cover of Smokey Robinson’s song ‘Who’s Lovin’ You?’ at an amateur TV reality contest ‘Life At The Apollo’. She was booed but salvaged her rendition towards the end
In 1991, Pras Michel approached Hill in high school and asked her to join his group the Fugees. Soon after she joined Hill began to date Wyclef Jean. The breakdown of the relationship would later be cited as a cause of the band’s split
Fugees’ first album ‘Blunted On Reality’ was released in 1994 when Hill was 19. It would achieve nowhere near as much success as their second, and final, record, ‘The Score’
‘The Score’ went on to be one of the biggest-selling hip-hop albums of all time but the trio disbanded in 1997 to pursue solo careers
As well as singing and MCing, Hill’s career in film and television brought her national fame. Indeed her renditions of ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow’ and ‘Joyful, Joyful’ from Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit are two of her best-loved tracks
In 1996, a caller on The Howard Stern Show said that he’s heard Lauryn Hill state on MTV “I would rather have my family starve than have white people buy my albums.” While oft-quoted, this assertion was disclaimed by MTV and Ms Hill
1997 saw the release of Hill’s solo album ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’. It went to number one on the Billboard chart, sold 19 million copies worldwide and won five Grammy awards.
One of the themes that inspired ‘Miseducation’ was her pregnancy with the child of Rohan Marley, Bob Marley’s son. “When some women are pregnant, their hair and their nails grow, but for me it was my mind and ability to create,” said Hill of that period in her life. Hill now has six children.
Though there was talk of RZA producing ‘Miseducation’, Hill insisted on writing, producing and arranging the entire album herself
Samples on the album range from Boogie Down Productions, Wu-Tang Clan, José Feliciano, The Doors and Bob Marley. D’Angelo, Mary J. Blige, Carlos Santana and John Legend feature
In 2000, Lauryn Hill started to withdraw from the public eye. She explained why she turned her back on the music industry: “Oftentimes, the machine can overlook the need to take care of the people who produce the sounds that have a lot to do with the health and well-being of society, or at least some aspect of society”
In 2002, ‘MTV Unplugged No. 2.0’, a live album of 22 songs she’d performed for MTV Unplugged. The stripped-down, gospelly nature of the record divided critics and is her last full-length album release
Accounts of Hill’s live performances over the last few years have been varied. Late shows, rambling poetry and preaching are charges levelled at the singer. No live dates have yet been announced for the album billed to be released this year. She previously wrote on her blog that a $1 million record deal signed with Sony enabled her to escape imprisonment
Between the ‘Unplugged’ album and 2013, Hill’s output has been patchy to say the least. An unofficial compilation album called ‘Khulami Phase’ appeared online in April 2010 with songs Hill had performed over the last few years. ‘Repercussions’ was released by Hill on July 29, 2010
New track ‘Neurotic Society’ paints a cynical picture of the world: “We’re living in a joke time, metaphorical coke time/ Commerce and guru men, run the whole world man, old world brutality/ Cold world kills softly, whole world runs savagely/ Reading into prior things, program TV screens”. Hill is to report to an unnamed prison on July