Nov 5, 2015

#TBT Editorial: The Miseducation of @mslaurynhill by @RamseySaidWHAT

A lot of people give flack to Frank Ocean and his absence from the music scene. Question: why didn't Lauryn Hill get the same treatment?

The classic Miseducation of Lauryn Hill dropped in 1998 won five Grammy's and her unplugged album didn't drop for four years after that. Since then we didn't get new Lauryn material until last year. Let that sink in. Regardless, this is (in my opinion) the greatest Hip-Hop or R&B album ever. I can't believe I've never written about it. Let's take a trip in time to elementary school days and into the mind of Ms Lauryn Hill.

The story begins in class with a skit where Lauryn Hill ins't present in class. It fades into Lost Ones. L Boogie has always been multifaceted and she shows her emcee skills on a boom bap beat. "You might win some but you just lost one," Coos through your earphones. Along with some rapping she still laid down some smooth vocals in the chorus and hook. Class continues without her presence. Today's lesson: Love. The students (probably from some school in Orange, NJ) and their teacher have the exchange and track three begins. Ex-Factor must be every woman's breakup or reconciliation theme song. At least that's word to my high school sweetheart and her bestfriend Chante. At the time I don't think I really understood the lyrics. No matter how many times I googled the word "Reciprocity," I couldn't tell you the meaning until I lost at a later date. The harmonies are sick and blend lovely at the end of the song. Lauryn's vocal range is unrivaled from tenor to soprano. Then we cue a sicker electric guitar solo. The song is a certified R&B classic. To Zion follows up. The song is a beautiful ode to her son of the title's name. It's funny how life changes when you have children (so I hear). Priority is now on how to make the next generation better than the last. This song holds true to my heart and those who have children of their own. The class discussion skits take the opinion of a few children and their depiction of what love really is.

The lead single, Doo Wop (That Thing) is next. Without a doubt this is my favorite on this album and of all her music. I think I might be the only one I know that knows all the words. That includes that dreaded second verse where everyone around me got quiet and stared during her set at AfroPunk. Bars on Bars, and with quality content. Ladies and Gents, watch out! Some only have one intention. The song instrumental turns into a ballad and chorale. While it plays the skits continue with a question. "Are we too young to be in love?" I think at any age we could still ask that question.

Superstar, Final Hour, and When it Hurts So Bad take us to a deeper part of the mind of Lauryn. The mood of the album is glum.

"What you want might make you cry, what you need might pass you by if you don't catch it."

At the end of the song finally a young man weighs in on being confused and lead on when it comes to love. I Used to Love Him proceeds afterwards with an assist from Mary J. Blige. Let me remind you this is 1998 and it features the queen of R&B herself. The leading vocal divas at the time collaborated with a New York/New Jersey connection and created something special. I actually thought the song was going to be a metaphorical response to Common's I Used to Love H.E.R. Still, beautiful music. Things lighten up with Forgive Them Father and Every Ghetto, Every City. Perhaps the messages kept their sincerity but musically it was fun to listen and sing along to.

Can I tell a story within a story? It's my senior year of high school and I was attempting to form an acapella group within our high school band. Yes, I know vocalists within instrumentalists; some of us can blow, I'm serious. Let's just say that failed, horribly. What I do remember is on the side Chante (as mentioned earlier) and my homie Ebony used to emulate Lauryn and D'Angelo's harmony on Nothing Even Matters. Honestly I think they did it better but that's opinionated. Regardless this was an amazing track and wait, it gets better. The last single comes up next. Everything is Everything is on everyone's Lauryn Hill playlist (this whole album tbh) and for good reason. Rapping verses and singing chorus throughout was killing the radio, then and now. I think the rappers today need to revisit this and listen to Lauryn's message (shameless plug: I wrote about it in my editorial tomorrow).

The album wraps up with three songs and three more moods. The title track is probably my favorite song to sing home alone in the mirror and I'm not embarrassed to say it. The song takes us back into her world and she flexes what her voice can do. Her crooning goes to another level throughout. She plays with chords and runs from tenor to soprano range effortlessly. Her ad-libs are so creative and the way her brain, ears, and mouth work together make this an amazing song. In addition, I love the vinyl cracking sound in the beginning and end of the song, it gives it a really cool old aesthetic. The next song is a remake to Can't Take My Eyes Off of You. She gives the song some flavor with beat-boxing and hip-hop percussion. At this moment is when I realized she uses the same kick/snare combination in a lot of her songs like Everything is Everything and Doo Wop. I always thought that was funny. The album closes out with another favorite of mine, Tell Him. 1 Chorinthians 13:4 in the Holy Bible: Love is patient, kind, does not envy or isn't boastful. That is the message of the last track. Now we know what love is and isn't she still takes the time out to tell her lover she loves him regardless. Something I try to listen to after an argument with my partners. Deep stuff.

All in all, the Miseducation was a plethora of hits that took us deep into Lauryn's world. On that journey, we learned what we found there wasn't so different than lessons we learned on our own road through adolescence. Although I was only seven, I understood the severity that was the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Sure at the time I was like "Hey that's ole girl from Sister Act 2." As a music blogger I'm embarrassed that I never wrote about this classic because that's exactly what it is, a classic. This wasn't exactly supposed to be a review but if I had to ever give a perfect rating with no skips this is the one. Five of Five on the Ramsey Rating Scale. Take it back with me and listen to the Miseducation below after the break.
Jonathan C. Ramsey
Jonathan C. Ramsey

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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