In a rare interview, Ms. Lauryn Hill reflected on her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and reveals why she never released a follow-up LP. Hill spoke with Rolling Stone for the publication’s 500 Greatest Albums podcast and expounded on the album via email.
Hill’s 1998 debut turned her into an icon, but the New Jersey native revealed that she’s her harshest critic. “I’ve always been pretty critical of myself artistically, so of course there are things I hear that could have been done differently, but the LOVE in the album, the passion, its intention is, to me, undeniable,” she said of the album.
“I think my intention was simply to make something that made my foremothers and forefathers in music and social and political struggle know that someone received what they’d sacrificed to give us, and to let my peers know that we could walk in that truth, proudly and confidently.
“At that time, I felt like it was a duty or responsibility to do so,” she continued. “I saw the economic and educational gaps in black communities and although I was super young myself, I used that platform to help bridge those gaps and introduce concepts and information that ‘we’ needed even if ‘we’ didn’t know ‘we’ wanted it yet.”
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which debuted atop the Billboard Hot 200 and remained on the charts for 81 weeks, has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Hill swept the year’s Grammy Awards taking home five trophies.
“I also think the album stood apart from the types and cliches that were supposed to be acceptable at that time,” she added. “I challenged the norm and introduced a new standard. I believe The Miseducation did that and I believe I still do this — defy convention when the convention is questionable.”
When asked why she never released a follow-up project, Hill pointed to her record label. “The wild thing is no one from my label has ever called me and asked how can we help you make another album, EVER…EVER. Did I say ever? Ever! With The Miseducation, there was no precedent,” Hill recalled. “I was, for the most part, free to explore, experiment and express. After The Miseducation, there were scores of tentacled obstructionists, politics, repressing agendas, unrealistic expectations, and saboteurs EVERYWHERE. People had included me in their own narratives of THEIR successes as it pertained to my album, and if this contradicted my experience, I was considered an enemy.”
Hill suggested that her artistry had been suppressed but didn’t go into detail. “Where there should have been overwhelming support, there wasn’t any,” she said.
“I have always had to custom build what I’ve needed in order to get things done. The lack of respect and willingness to understand what that is, or what I need to be productive and healthy, doesn’t really sit well with me,” Hill explained. “When no one takes the time to understand, but only takes the time to count the money the fruit of this process produces, things can easily turn bad. Mistreatment, abuse, and neglect happen. I wrote an album about systemic racism and how it represses and stunts growth and harms (all of my albums have probably addressed systemic racism to some degree), before this was something this generation openly talked about. I was called crazy. Now…over a decade later, we hear this as part of the mainstream chorus.”