Lauryn Hill celebrates the 20th anniversary of her first and only studio album today, August 25th. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a landmark in Hip-Hop, as the first time in Grammy history that the Album of the Year honors went to an artist of the genre.
Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the album broke the standing record for first-week sales by a female artist, selling close to 423,000 in its first seven days. All three singles – “Doo Wop (That Thing),” “Ex-Factor,” and “Everything Is Everything” – charted Top 40 with “Doo Wop” eventually claiming the top spot on the Hot 100s.
Miss Hill’s solo debut earned a total of 10 nominations at the 41st GRAMMY Awards, winning five of them including Best R&B Album, Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and of course the highly coveted Album of the Year. At the time, this was also the most awards given to a female recording artist in a single night.
However, all the accolades and success Lauryn Hill received with this record were just a short glimpse of the intricate body of work “The Miseducation” is both sonically and spiritually even 20 years later.
In 1997, Hill began recording the album, soon after the first time The Fugees—the acclaimed trio she formed with Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean—broke up. Some of the album’s songs, including “Lost Ones,” addressed her tumultuous romantic relationship with Wycelf.
She held most of her sessions at Tuff Gong Studio, the Kingston facility operated by the family of Rohan Marley (son of Bob Marley), her then-partner and father of her first born child Zion.
Presenting a uniquely strong female perspective on life, love and relationships that was (and still is) noticeably absent in contemporary pop music, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill was packed with lyrically deep songs that managed to be inescapably catchy as they were profound.
With raw anthems and endearing skits about spirituality, Hill told The Guardian in an 1999 interview that the record embodied the notion that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. Yes, it dealt with heartbreak and love, but really, it “was meant to discuss those life lessons… those things that you don’t get in any text book, things that we go through that force us to mature”.
Lauryn Hill found a pocket in between soulful melodies and conscious raps that has laid the foundation for many Hip-Hop and R&B artists today. In fact, Drake and Cardi B incorporated “Ex Factor” in both of their respective projects this year, with Drake having one of the biggest singles, “Nice For What,” featuring a sped up sample of Hill’s vocals accompanied by a bounce beat made popular by New Orleans.
Although we may never get another project from L. Boogie, she left us with an timeless body of work that was special then and remains just as special now.