Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill

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Album: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Label: Ruffhouse/Columbia
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Album: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Label: Ruffhouse/Columbia

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After the appearance of The Fugees' 1993 debut, Blunted On Reality, some suggested that vocalist/rapper Lauryn Hill ought to embark on a solo career. The best parts of that group's second album, the 1996 breakthrough hit The Score, confirmed that that wouldn't be necessary; Hill stood out on both the group tracks and "Killing Me Softly," the inescapable Roberta Flack cover that played a prominent role in the soundtrack of the summer of '96. Hill's first solo album—which finds her working as a writer, performer, arranger, and producer—makes it clear that, however strong her commitment to The Fugees may be, she does fine on her own. (And if, as rumored, the electric, album-opening song "Lost Ones" is really about Wyclef Jean, that commitment may not be as strong as it once was.) A personal album, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill features moments in which Hill both refers to herself in the third person and addresses some specifically autobiographical subjects, as on the lovely ode to her child, "To Zion." But except on the between-song skits, Miseducation never feels self-indulgent. One of Hill's greatest strengths is that she can flip from soulful, diva-worthy singing to gritty rap without missing a beat or breaking the mood. That's a skill her compositions put to good use, from the hip-hop/classic R&B fusion of "Doo Wop (That Thing)" through "Every Ghetto, Every City," a wistful Stevie Wonder-style number that's probably the first song to cast a nostalgic eye to 1988 and the music of Slick Rick and Biz Markie. Hill even integrates a Carlos Santana guitar solo without it sounding wanky. Not every track connects, and the album is weighted a bit heavily toward its front half, but most of the songs that do work sound like hit singles. If that should fail, Hill plays it safe by adding a couple of crowd-pleasing bonus tracks: a remix of "Sweetest Thing" from the Love Jones soundtrack and the unexpectedly funky cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You," previously available only in the closing credits of Conspiracy Theory. But for the most part, Hill's first solo album places the emphasis on her own original talents, a decision that makes it a knockout.

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