Last August, I had the pleasure to see Lauryn Hill perform live at Rock the Bells, a hip hop festival held in select cities across the country. I have been a lifelong fan of Ms. Hill since the days of Nappy Heads when she was part of the Tranzlator crew (also known as the Fugees). So naturally, I couldn’t wait to see her ‘rock the mic’ once again in what was supposed to be her comeback performance. I, along with a few thousand other concertgoers, stood out in the hazy August heat waiting patiently for her to take the stage.
Hill finally appeared a half-an-hour later after she was scheduled to perform, and the crowd, who by then was delirious from the heat, went wild. After a welcome back/thanks to the fans speech, the music kicked in and she began to sing. All I can say is that it was different, as in her overall vibe was unfamiliar. Gone were the days of the brown-skinned, bright-face, dreadlocked-wearing Ms. Hill we all knew and loved from the days of Lost Ones. Instead, in comes a much older, slightly tempered and strikingly eclectic Ms. Hill, which would take some time getting use to.
Ten years ago, Hill was set to rule the musical world. After a successful run with the Fugees, which produced hits such as “Fu-ge-laa,” “Ready or Not” and “Vocab,” along with some very publicized bad blood between group members, Ms. Hill would branch out on her own with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. That album went on to win five Grammys and sell more than 18 million copies in a decade, solidifying her as one of the greatest female emcees in hip-hop history. But since then, she has been relatively missing in action from the music scene – with the exception of 2001’s MTV Unplugged, which had many of Hill’s most devoted fans bemused with her erratic behavior between songs. After that, the general consensus was that Hill had enough of the music industry and she proceeded to take refuge in the anonymity of suburban life in South Orange, New Jersey with her mother and five children.
But 13 years after the promise of a second solo album begun to fade, Hill reemerged. Despite her return to sold out concerts, some fans are still wondering: what the hell happened to Lauryn Hill? It’s not so much her absence, which had folks wagging their tongues, but rather her reputation of diva-like behavior, including her chronic lateness to performances and insistence on performing unfamiliar remixes of her songs. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention her apparent disheveled appearances, which has included awkward makeup and mix-and-match ensembles. Also, there is much discussion around her long-term ‘spiritual union’ with an allegedly married Rohan Marley, son of the legendary Bob Marley.