It’s been 25 years since Lauryn Hill released her iconic album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. When it dropped in 1998, I was far too young to reflect on the messaging, but I knew there was something real and raw about the New Jersey native’s timeless music.
In New York alone, there were months that you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing those distinct keys and soulful blaring horns in “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” or Hill’s remarkable crooning on “Ex-Factor.” Yet, in the 25 years since its release society has evolved. For example, the way we talk about sexual relationships, sex positivity and accountability has changed.
Even those who were old enough to be introduced to Hill while they were adults have likely matured and reflected deeper on the perspectives she shared on her project. Whether you loved it or hated it, this milestone anniversary is the perfect time to consider how well said perspectives still speak to us.
Hill’s fan favorite “Doo Wop (That Thing)” spent two weeks at No.1 on the Billboard chart, an infectious hit that gave a powerful critique on gender dynamics, self-respect and the pressures of conformity. The social commentary and cultural messages buried within the Hooterville native’s song landed at a time in hip-hop when sexual liberation in the female rap game was at an all-time high.
Lil Kim was still riding on the wave of her 1996 debut album Hardcore, in which the Brooklyn femcee spat raunchy and apologetic bars about her body and sex appeal. Shortly after, Foxy Brown came out on the scene full force with Ill Na Na, a project where the rap underdog spoke openly about the joys of sex and living life to the fullest.
“Doo Wop” felt like an act of rebellion at a time in the hip-hop game where women may have felt pressured to fall into the “sex-sells” trap. Hill encouraged women all around the world to rock their crowns high by keeping their clothes on. Her famous line, “Showing off your ass ‘cause you’re thinking it’s a trend, girlfriend,” was a standout lyric during that specific timeframe.
Lauryn was certainly ahead of her time when she dropped “Doo Wop,” but the lyrics haven’t exactly aged well in today’s sex-positive movement. Now, it is more socially acceptable to show off your body if you damn well please, and women of all shapes and sizes are embracing the call. In 2020, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B commanded the world’s attention with their hit song “WAP,” a track that boldly reclaimed sexual autonomy and became an anthem for pussy power worldwide.
Still, with a body of work as broad as The Miseducation, Hill surely has plenty of themes that have withstood the test of time. The inimitable singer explored the pain, growth and frustration that can come from love and a bad breakup in her timeless hit “Ex-Factor.”
“Tell me who I have to be, to get some reciprocity” is an evergreen lyric. Women are still desperately in search of reciprocity in 2023. A Pew Research study in 2020, found that single women in today’s modern dating world are looking for men who share the same relationship values and expectations.
Lauryn Hill had it right when she said “love is like a battlefield.” Requiring a balanced and reciprocal love can still feel like a “battle.”
Overall, despite societal shifts in conversations around sexual liberation and body positivity, reflecting on the album 25 years later, many of the themes in Hill’s masterpiece still resonate today. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill continues to shine as a beacon of artistic brilliance and empowerment. Its timeless relevance, personal authenticity and musical innovation have solidified its place in the pantheon of influential albums.
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