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Hill, Lauryn

Lauryn Hill

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Teen Rapper

Scored

Record-Setting Solo Debut

The Ultimate Revenge

Selected discography

Sources

For Lauryn Hill, gaining a certain level of independence and control as a singer, songwriter, and producer in the predominantly male-centered rap and R&B industry was a formidable struggle. On the first record she ever made, 1993s Blunted on Reality, Hill was nothing more than the ultra-hip lead singer and writer of her own raps. By the time The Score was released in 1996, Hill was a minor celebrity and object of adoration in the media, a talent so obviousand with looks so photogenicthat the clamor for her to go solo was incessant. But after gracefully letting her fellow Fugees take that route first, Hill unleashed The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill to a platinum sales debut as well as overwhelming critical acclamation and adulation.

In less than six months t, Miseducation had sold three million copies. Spin named Hill Artist of the Year, and inside its pages writer Craig Seymour commented upon Miseducation s wide range of fans. In a fractured musical landscape, it simultaneously united the Sound-Scan massesfrom hip-hop heads to frat rats to Lilith Fair maidens, Seymour wrote, and called it the most

For the Record

Born c. 1975, in New Jersey; daughter of Mal a computer analyst) and Valerie (a teacher) Hill; children: Zion David, Selah. Education: Attended Columbia University.

Hill joined the Fugees as a teenager in the early 1990s; she also appeared on As the World Turns and in the feature films King of the Hill and Sister Act II: Back in the Habit; made recording debut with Fugees on Blunted on Reality, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1993; 1996s follow-up, The Score, Ruffhouse/Colu;mbia, sold 17 million copies; released solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1997.

Awards: As a member of the Fugees and co-producer of their second album The Score, Hill shared two 1997 Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for Best R&B song by a duo or group, for Killing Me Softly with His Song, and for best rap album; triple platinum certification, November 1998, for The Miseducation ofLauryn Hill, Recording Industry Association of America.

Addresses: Record company c/o Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211; (212) 833-7080, fax (212) 833-5401.

feel-good record of the year, and not just because you can feel good about yourself for liking it. When a black artist brings together people like this, it seems like societal gaps are a little bit narrower.

Hill was born in the mid-1970s and grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, a neighborhood of modest houses on quiet streets that nevertheless was situated not far from a much rougher area with the high-rise buildings of public housing. Her parents were professionals. Her father, Mai, once sang professionally in nightclubs and at weddings, but became a computer analyst, while her mother, Valerie, taught school in nearby Newark. As a child, Hill spent long hours listening to a trove of her mothers old 45s, hundreds of boxes of singles she found stashed in the basement from the likes of Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield, and Aretha Franklin from the legendary black music labels Motown, Stay, and Philly International. One oclock in the morning, youd go in her room and youd see her fast asleep with the earphones on, Valerie Hill told Toure in a 1999 interview for Rolling Stone. This sixties soul that Id collected just seeped into her veins.

Teen Rapper

Hill made her performing debut on Showtime at the Apollo at the age of 13. Her parents rented a van and brought along a group of her friends for the trek to Harlem to hear her sing the Smoky Robinson tune Whos Lovin You. But Hill was so afraid of the microphone that she kept her distance from it, and the result was jeers from the merciless audience. Her uncle yelled at her to move closer, and she grabbed the mike and sang that song with a vengeance, like, How dare you boo me, Valerie Hill told Rolling Stone. Determined despite her rough start, Hill persevered, pursuing music as well as acting as a teen. She won a role in As the World Turns while still in high school, and in 1993, appeared in the Whoopi Goldberg movie Sister Act II: Back in the Habit.

Hill had also become acquainted with a friend of her brothers, Prakazrel Pras Michel. A Haitian immigrant, Michel formed a rap group and asked Hill to join. The trio became the Fugees-Tranzlator Crew. They danced and rapped in other languages and cut their demo tapes in a basement studio that belonged to Michels cousin. One day, another cousin of Michels, Wyclef Jean, came by the studio to hear them. Jean was amazed by Hills voice and decided to work with them. Later the other female member went off to college, and the trio eventually dropped the Tranzlator part and became just the Fugees. Hill herself put off collegethough she was accepted by a number of prestigious schoolsto take part-time courses at Columbia University.

The Fugees soon attracted attention on the local circuitin part due to a combination of Hills stunning looks and her rapsand were signed to the Pennsylvania rap label Ruffhouse. With the Fugees, she recorded Blunted on Reality, released in 1993. But the groupstill in their teensfelt steamrollered by the whole event, and had been allowed little input into the production process. Their music was given pumped-up, gangsta-style beats by their creative team working on behalf of the label, who wanted to make a standard rap album. The record failed to make a dent in the charts. Hailed in Europe as a glimpse of the future, Blunted was summarily trashed in the American hip-hop press for missing the mark altogether, noted Rolling Stones Alec Foege.

Scored

However, a New York producer remixed two of Blunteds tracks, the songs became underground club favorites, and suddenly the Fugeeswith Hill as their frontpersonwere a sensation. For their second album Hill, Jean, and Michel successfully argued with management to gain more creative control, and produced it themselves. The Score was released in 1996, a massive success of an album, widely hailed as one of the best of the year and even as a turning point for contemporary African-American music. The record was launched with Hills lauded vocals on a cover of the 1973 Roberta Flack hit, Killing Me Softy with His Song, a single that spent five weeks at number one. In the end, The Score sold 18 million copies and made the Fugees the best-selling rap act in history. Rather than reform hip hop, theyre re-forming it, with a gumbotic, frenetic amalgam of rock-steady samples, Castilian guitar, and verbal dexterity all over the map, wrote Natasha Stovall in the Village Voice. Hill, the critic noted, does double duty as both rapper and diva. Her book smart-street smart persona and righteous, self-confident presence make her The Scores centrifugal force.

Even early on in her days as a new rap celebrity, Hill was continuously plagued by rumors that she was either about to leave the Fugees and go solo, or speculation about why she had not yet done so. In interviews she stressed the long-time creative relationship she enjoyed with Jean and Michel, and how well they functioned as a team. But then Hill became pregnant in late 1996, and did her first solo song for the soundtrack of a 1997 film with Larenz Tate and Nia Long called Love Jones. Meanwhile, Jean recorded and released his own solo album, and Michel was known to be planning one as well. Many assumed Hills career was stalled indefinitely. Others counseled her against having a child at this crucial point in her life.

Record-Setting Solo Debut

But the pregnancy was a blessing in disguise, for it fueled a huge burst of creativity in Hill. She wrote over two dozen songs, and then recorded them at her home in South Orange and in Kingston, Jamaica, from where the father of her child, Rohan Marley, hailed. Again, she had to fight for the right to produce her own record, though she had shared a Grammy award for The Score. Long before The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill debuted, Wyclef Jean had told a reporter that he would be the producer of Hills solo album, which made Hill roll her eyes later as she remembered hearing of this boast. You would think that after selling 15 million records that I would be able to produce and write my own joint, but it was a battle, Hill explained to Michael A. Gonzales in a 1998 interview in The Source.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill debuted in August of 1998 to sales of over 400,000 copies its first week out, setting a record for a black female artist. Miseducation s title mirrored the name of a civil-rights treatise, The Miseducation of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson, but Hill told Time Out-New YorKs Raquel Cepeda, its really about the things that you learn outside of school, outside of what society deems appropriate and mandatory. The record won effusive praise for its honesty, emotional resonance, and panoply of musical styles that interlocked well. Mary J. Blige guested with Hill to sing a duet on I Used to Love Him, while guitarist Carlos Santana played on Joy of My World Is in Zion, Hills tribute to her son.

Easily flowing from singing to rapping, evoking the past while forging a future of her own, Hill has made an album of often-astonishing power, strength, and feeling, declared Entertainment Weekly s David Browne. He termed the record infused with African-American musical history, and noted that every cut, even the apolitical ones, presents a new and unexpected twist, both musically and emotionally. Browne wrote of the dominant boys club vibe of most R&B and hip-hop music, even acclaimed works by womenthe music is as exquisitely manicured as high-cost nails but deeply impersonal, Contrasting such works with Miseducation, Browne found Hills work infused with the highs and lows of a young woman faced with success and expectations. A cloud hangs over the album, but the effect is human, not programmed.

The Ultimate Revenge

Some of that cloud may have been the result of questions about the future of the Fugees and, in comparison, the less-than-stellar reception to both Jeans and Michels solo efforts. Label executives stressed that the band was simply enjoying a hiatus and would eventually reconvene in the studio. Some speculated that public-relations finesse was covering up a more serious breach, that Jeans To All the Girls was a dig at Hill, and that Miseducation s Lost Ones was her response (my emancipation dont fit your equation, she sings), as was perhaps Ex-Factor, or even I Used to Love Him. But Hill downplayed such issues. The album is not about me bein upset about a love lost, Hill told Toure. Its not even really about bein upset about bein stabbed in the back.

Before the end of the year, Miseducation would sell two million copies and earn Hill eight Grammy nominations. She won five, beating Carole Kings 1971 record of four Grammys for her album Tapestry. Spin named her Artist of the Year and Time magazine put her on the cover as new face of black music. Hill isnt out to create bourgeois hip-hop lite, opined its music critic, Christopher John Farley. She constantly strives to connect her message to the street. Toure declared that the tracks on Miseducation evince that Hill has Joni Mitchells intense singer-songwriter integrity, Bob Marleys revolutionary spirit and young Chaka Khans all-natural, Everywoman sensuality. That expressiveness and emotional sincerity came naturally to Hill. I really dont know any better, as she explained the songwriting process to Melissa Ewey of Ebony. To write something thats too pretentious, that wouldnt feel natural to me. I think the only anxiety that I felt was you know that once you release something, its a reflection of you, and people will beat it up. I knew Id better do what I had to do to put my best foot forward.

While pregnant with Zion, Hill had worked with Aretha Franklin, writing the track A Rose Is a Rose for her 1998 album, and picking up another two Grammy nominations for her production work. She also planned to tour in early 1999, despite the fact that she now had had a second child, daughter Selah, with Rohan Marley. She admitted to Toure that raising children is a twenty-four-hour job, and making music is a twenty-four-hour job, so I have to be really careful how I do things. Nevertheless, becoming one of the most celebrated female talents of the decade did have its drawbacks. After the Grammy nominations were announced, Hill, her record company and her management team were sued by a quartet of songwriters who claimed they had written and produced some of the songs on Miseducation in collaboration with Hill. If I stopped enjoying this business, I could quit, Hill told Rolling Stones Kevin Powell. I never want the industry to drive me; I want to drive it. I want to be a part of a new class of artists who dont have to fall apart to be dope. Id rather not chronicle my demise.

Selected discography

With the Fugees

Blunted on Reality, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1993.

The Score, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1996.

Solo

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1998.

Sources

Billboard, May 11, 1996, p. 37; December 12, 1998, p. 6.

Ebony, November 1998, pp. 194-202.

Entertainment Weekly, June 26, 1998; September 4, 1998; October 2, 1998.

Essence, June 1998, pp. 73-76, 156-158.

Harpers Bazaar, April 1998, pp. 204-209.

New York Daily News, August 30, 1998.

People, August 31, 1998; December 28, 1998, pp. 56-57.

Rolling Stone, September 5, 1998, p. 40; September 17, 1998, p. 35; February 18, 1999.

The Source, September 1998, p. 223.

Spin, January 1999, p. 65.

Stereo Review, November 1998, pp. 109-110.

Time, September 7, 1998, pp. 70-72.

Time OutNew York, June 4, 1998.

Us, September 1998.

Village Voice, March 5, 1996, p. 53; April 9, 1996, p. 53; September 1, 1998, p. 57.

Carol Brennan

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Brennan, Carol. "Hill, Lauryn." Contemporary Musicians. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Brennan, Carol. "Hill, Lauryn." Contemporary Musicians. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (June 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3494300037.html

Brennan, Carol. "Hill, Lauryn." Contemporary Musicians. 1999. Retrieved June 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3494300037.html

Hill, Lauryn 1975(?)–

Lauryn Hill 1975(?)

Singer, songwriter, producer

Celebrity Teen

Bunted Blunted

Dont Do It. Youre a Superstar

Tagged the Future Sound of Soul

Selected discography

Sources

The adoration and respect accorded Lauryn Hill seems unparalleled. Beautiful, multitalented, whipsmart, wrote Harpers Bazaar Catalystshining stara divine singing voice and an up-front rhyme flow that ranks her among hip hops dopest MCs, assessed Vibe Public Enemys Chuck D. compared her to reggae legend Bob Marley. After creating, as Essence declared, a new image of womanhood in the world of hip-hop with her group the Fugees in the mid-1990s, Hill went on to score with her own phenomenally successful solo debut, 1998s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Just 23 years old, the star that is Hillalso affectionately called L and L-Boogieseemingly could not rise any higher. But further Fugees projects and a certain renewal of a stalled film career were likely. In the midst of all this, Hill had never found the time to finish her Ivy League degree in history, but did seize the opportunity to make history on her own platform by teaming socially-relevant lyrics with sensitive and dynamic musical hooks; she then used the profits from record sales to fund a charitable/cultural foundation aimed at improving the lives of children of African descent around the globe.

Hill was born in the mid-1970s and grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, not far from its public-housing projects. Her father Mal, who once sang professionally, was a computer analyst, while mother Valerie taught school in nearby Newark. Hill recalled many hours as an adolescent spent listening to her parents old R&B records, which gave her an appreciation for the likes of Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield, and others. The Hills, however, stressed academic achievement for their childrenshe has an older brother, Malaneyand she won entry to Columbia High School, an academically challenging school, where she became acquainted with a friend of her brothers named Prakazrel Pras Michel. A Haitian immigrant, Michel formed a rap group and asked Hill to join.

Celebrity Teen

Hill, who also ran track, was a popular and magnetic personality even in high school. She once asked her father if she could have a birthday party in their backyard, and he agreed as long as it was kept small. By the end of the night, 250 people must have showed up, Mal Hill told Rolling Stone reporter Alec Foege. By this

At a Glance

Born c. 1975, in New Jersey; daughter of Mal (a computer analyst) and Valerie (a teacher) Hill; children: Zion David, Selah Louise. Education: Attended Columbia University.

Career: Actress, singer, songwriter, and producer. Appeared in As the World Turns, early 1990s; Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, 1993; recorded as a member of the Fugees, Blunted on Reality, 1993; The Score, 1996; solo debut with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998; produced Aretha Franklin and CeCe Winans.

Awards: Won two 1997 Grammy Awards for Best R&B song by a duo or group, for Killing Me Softly with His Song, and for best rap album, The Score; triple platinum certification, November 1998, for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Recording Industry Association of America.

Addresses: Office c/o Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022.

time, she had ventured out on a few auditions, and won a recurring role on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns Youll see that my house is right on the borderline of the suburbs and the ghetto, Hill pointed out to Foege, who was visiting Hill at her familys home in South Orange. I always had this duality. I went to school with a lot of white kidsit was really like a suburban environmentbut I lived with black kids.

Hill, Michel, and another girl had formed a group called the Fugees-Tranzlator Crew. The fugee part was taken from the word refugee, based on their conviction that all blacks outside of Africa are, in a sense, refugees. They cut demos in which they rapped in other languages. One day Michels cousin, Wyclef Jean, came by the studio to hear them. Jean was also from Haiti, but grew up in a rough section of Brooklyn in a strict household headed by his minister father. When I heard Lauryn sing, I was like Wow! Jean told Edwige Danticat in Essence It clicked. I knew it was meant to be.

Bunted Blunted

By this time, Hill had already won a billed film role opposite Whoopi Goldberg in the 1993 film Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, as insubordinate student Rita Watson. Accepted to several colleges, including Yale and Spelman, Hill chose to stick close to home and concentrate on her recording career by enrolling at Columbia University. After the other member departed for college, the three of themHill, Jean, and Michelbegan performing in local talent shows and in New Jersey clubs; they also dropped the Tranzlator part of their name. We sang, we rapped, we danced, Hill recalled for Foege in the Rolling Stone interview. As a matter of fact, we were a circus troupe, she added. They won a recording contract with the Philadelphia rap label Ruffhouse, who released Blunted on Reality in 1993.

Hill and the others were unhappy with the finished product, however. Like many other young, inexperienced artists, they were shut out of the production and creative process, and the album was an edgy, quick-paced work of rap. Hailed in Europe as a glimpse of the future, Blunted was summarily trashed in the American hip-hop press for missing the mark altogether, noted Rolling Stones Foege. It languished on the charts, but when a producer remixed two of the tracks, the songs became underground club favorites. Then word of mouth began spreading about the female rapper who could also sing, and Hill soon became the focus of attention for the group. She, Michel and Jean fought for and won producer rights for their next effort, The Score, and their perseverance paid off. Bolstered by singles that showcased Hills talents, such as a cover of the 1973 Roberta Flack hit Killing Me Softy with His Song, and Ready or Not, and the 1996 release sold millions and was the number-three pop album in the country at one point while in first place on the Billboard R&B charts. With sales of 17 million, the Fugees became the biggest selling rap act in history.

Dont Do It. Youre a Superstar

Hills appearance on magazine covers without her bandmates may have fueled speculation early on that she would ditch them for a solo career. The issue became one of the most overreported non-events during the peak of Fugee success. She emphatically dismissed such talkIts not a compliment when people tell me to break off from them, Hill told Vibe magazine in early 1996. Thats like telling me to drop my brothers, she continued. The group toured heavily in 1996, but by the time they performed at the Grammy Awards ceremony in early 1997, Hill was three months pregnant. She had met Rohan Marley, son of the late reggae giant Bob Marley, when he showed up for a Fugee show and tried to talk to her. At first, she was uninterested in the beginning because of a past relationship that soured with a University of Miami football player. But back then I wasnt really checking for anybody, Hill told Essence writer Monifa Young. I was very much into my music. You know, Id spent so many years working at a relationship that didnt work that I was just like, Im going to write these songs and pour my heart into them.

Yet Marley persisted, a romance developed, and soon the fact that Hill was carrying the grandchild of late Bob Marley only added to the aura of divinity that seemed to surround her. She had initially refused to disclose who the father was, and took heat for taking the single mother route at such a young age. A lot of people told me, Dont do it. Its not the right time, youre a superstar, Hill recalled in an interview with Daisann McLane in Harpers Bazaar But I looked at my life, and I said, Well, God has blessed me with a whole lot in a little bit of time. At the end of the day, the only reason for me not to have a child would have been that it was an inconvenience to my career, and that wasnt a good enough excuse for me not to have my son.

Tagged the Future Sound of Soul

Carrying a child, Hill has said, gave her even more energyshe recorded a track with gospel star CeCe Winans the day before she gave birthand she wrote over two dozen songs for her own project. Hills solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was released in August of 1998. Writing in Essence, Young called it one of the most anticipated albums of the year by fans and industry insiders. It debuted to platinum sales. On it was a tribute to her son, named Zion David, titled Joy of my World Is in Zion. Time magazine put Hill on the cover, and inside wrote about her and other African American artists such as Maxwell and Erykah Badu who were producing a fresh wave of emotionally relevant music that seemed to embody what writer Christopher John Farley called the neo-soul movement. Farley termed Hills solo debut the kind of galvanizing work neo-soul needs: unabashedly personal, unrelentingly confrontational, uncommonly inventive.

Hill has become one of the most lauded of behind-the-scenes talents as well. She executive-produced Miseducation, and went to Detroit to work with Aretha Franklin and wrote the song A Rose Is Still a Rose for the Queen of Soul, which became the title track for Franklins album. Hill also directed its video. Shes positive, detailed, conscientious, Franklin said of Hill to McLane in Harpers Bazaar Frankly, I was surprised to see that in such a young woman, she continued. Still, fighting for control over her talents has not been easy, and the ultimate realized success of her vision brings its own demons. This is a very sexist industry, Hill told Young in the Essence interview. Theyll never throw the genius title to a sister. Theyll just call her diva and think its a compliment.

Hill still lives with her parents in South Orange, New Jersey. The house she grew up in is now Lauryn Hill headquarters. Though enmeshed with more responsibilities now that her album has been released, Hill slowed the pace as she awaited the arrival of her second child. Her daughter, Selah Louise Marley was born in November of 1998. After some bonding time, she will pursue other activities, including acting projects. She had to turn down an offer from director Jonathan Demme to appear in Beloved, the Oprah Winfrey project based on Toni Morrisons novel, due to her first pregnancy, but scripts reportedly arrive daily at her home. Hill is also the founder of the Refugee Camp Youth Project, an outreach organization aimed at improving the lives of children in places like Haiti, Zaire, Kenya, Uganda, and New Jersey. Its projects include a day camp for inner-city kids in New Jersey, and well-building projects in Africa. During her Fugeera, Hills charity put on the first ever concert by an American act in Haiti. Over 75,000 showed up, including the countrys president, for the benefit concert for the countrys orphanages and rehabilitation camps. The money was mismanaged, some say by the Haitian government, but a second concert in Miami also garnered money for the foundation. Hill also organized Hoodshock in Harlem. Among the performers was the late Notorious B.I.G. and the Fugees. Im very, very blessed, Hill told McLane in Harpers Bazaar I think its because God has a plan for me. Because Im supposed to do something. Its like: Okay, Lauryn. Everything is in place. Now do what you have to do. Say what you have to say, she concluded.

Selected discography

(with the Fugees)

Blunted on Reality, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1993.

The Score, Ruff house/Columbia, 1996.

Solo

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1998.

Sources

Periodicals

Essence, August 1996, p. 85; June 1998, p. 74.

Harpers Bazaar, April 1998, pp. 204208.

Rolling Stone, September 5, 1996.

Time, July 6, 1998, pp. 8586.

Vibe, March 1996; June/July 1996; August 1998.

Other

Additional information for this profile was provided by an Internet site at http://www.laurynhill.com, Entertainment Weekly Online, and MTV Online.

Carol Brennan

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Brennan, Carol. "Hill, Lauryn 1975(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Brennan, Carol. "Hill, Lauryn 1975(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (June 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2872200033.html

Brennan, Carol. "Hill, Lauryn 1975(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1999. Retrieved June 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2872200033.html

Hill, Lauryn

Lauryn Hill

1975-

Singer, songwriter, producer

The adoration and respect accorded Lauryn Hill seems unparalleled. "The most versatile vocalist of her generation," wrote Kevin Powell in Horizon magazine. "Beautiful, multitalented, whipsmart," wrote Harper's Bazaar. "Catalyst…shining star…a divine singing voice and an up-front rhyme flow that ranks her among hip hop's dopest MCs," assessed Vibe. Public Enemy's Chuck D compared her to reggae legend Bob Marley. After creating, as Essence declared, "a new image of womanhood in the world of hip-hop" with her group the Fugees in the mid-1990s, Hill went on to score with her own phenomenally successful solo debut, 1998's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Just when Hill's stardom seemed to reach its zenith, she stepped out of the limelight, taking a several-year hiatus from the public eye. When she resurfaced in the early 2000s, Hill revealed new depths of her musical talents.

Explored Music from an Early Age

Hill was born on May 22, 1975, and grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, not far from its public-housing projects. Her father Mal, who once sang professionally, was a computer analyst, while mother Valerie taught school in nearby Newark. Hill recalled many hours as an adolescent spent listening to her parents' old R&B records, which gave her an appreciation for the likes of Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield, and others. The Hills, however, stressed academic achievement for their children—she has an older brother, Malaney—and she won entry to Columbia High School, an academically challenging school, where she became acquainted with a friend of her brother's named Prakazrel "Pras" Michel. A Haitian immigrant, Michel formed a rap group and asked Hill to join.

Hill, who also ran track, was a popular and magnetic personality even in high school. She once asked her father if she could have a birthday party in their backyard, and he agreed as long as it was kept small. "By the end of the night, 250 people must have showed up," Mal Hill told Rolling Stone reporter Alec Foege. By this time, she had ventured out on a few auditions, and won a recurring role on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns. "You'll see that my house is right on the borderline of the suburbs and the ghetto," Hill pointed out to Foege, who was visiting Hill at her family's home in South Orange. "I always had this duality. I went to school with a lot of white kids—it was really like a suburban environment—but I lived with black kids."

Formulated New Sound with the Fugees

Hill, Michel, and another girl had formed a group called the Fugees-Tranzlator Crew. The "fugee" part was taken from the word "refugee," based on their conviction that all blacks outside of Africa are, in a sense, refugees. They cut demos in which they rapped in other languages. One day Michel's cousin, Wyclef Jean, came by the studio to hear them. Jean was also from Haiti, but grew up in a rough section of Brooklyn in a strict household headed by his minister father. "When I heard Lauryn sing, I was like 'Wow!'" Jean told Edwige Danticat in Essence. "It clicked. I knew it was meant to be."

By this time, Hill had already won a billed film role opposite Whoopi Goldberg in the 1993 film Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, as insubordinate student Rita Watson. Accepted to several colleges, including Yale and Spelman, Hill chose to stick close to home and concentrate on her recording career by enrolling at Columbia University. After the other member departed for college, the three of them—Hill, Jean, and Michel—began performing in local talent shows and in New Jersey clubs; they also dropped the "Tranzlator" part of their name. "We sang, we rapped, we danced," Hill recalled for Foege in the Rolling Stone interview. "As a matter of fact, we were a circus troupe," she added. They won a recording contract with the Philadelphia rap label Ruffhouse, who released Blunted on Reality in 1993.

Hill and the others were unhappy with the finished product, however. Like many other young, inexperienced artists, they were shut out of the production and creative process, and the album was an edgy, quick-paced work of rap. "Hailed in Europe as a glimpse of the future, Blunted was summarily trashed in the American hip-hop press for missing the mark altogether," noted Rolling Stone's Foege. It languished on the charts, but when a producer remixed two of the tracks, the songs became underground club favorites. Then word of mouth began spreading about the female rapper who could also sing, and Hill soon became the focus of attention for the group. She, Michel and Jean fought for and won producer rights for their next effort, The Score, and their perseverance paid off. Bolstered by singles that showcased Hill's talents, such as a cover of the 1973 Roberta Flack hit "Killing Me Softy with His Song," and "Ready or Not," and the 1996 release sold millions and was the number-three pop album in the country at one point while in first place on the Billboard R&B charts. With sales of 17 million, the Fugees became the biggest selling rap act in history.

Solo Star Rose

Hill's appearance on magazine covers without her bandmates may have fueled speculation early on that she would ditch them for a solo career. The issue became one of the most overreported non-events during the peak of Fugee success. She emphatically dismissed such talk—"It's not a compliment when people tell me to break off from them," Hill told Vibe magazine in early 1996. "That's like telling me to drop my brothers," she continued. The group toured heavily in 1996, but by the time they performed at the Grammy Awards ceremony in early 1997, Hill was three months pregnant. She had met Rohan Marley, son of the late reggae giant Bob Marley, when he showed up for a Fugee show and tried to talk to her. At first, she was uninterested in the beginning because of a past relationship that soured. "But back then I wasn't really checking for anybody," Hill told Essence writer Monifa Young. "I was very much into my music. You know, I'd spent so many years working at a relationship that didn't work that I was just like, I'm going to write these songs and pour my heart into them.'"

Yet Marley persisted, a romance developed, and soon the fact that Hill was carrying the grandchild of late Bob Marley only added to the aura of divinity that seemed to surround her. She had initially refused to disclose who the father was, and took heat for taking the "single mother" route at such a young age. "A lot of people told me, 'Don't do it. It's not the right time, you're a superstar,'" Hill recalled in an interview with Daisann McLane in Harper's Bazaar. "But I looked at my life, and I said, 'Well, God has blessed me with a whole lot in a little bit of time.' At the end of the day, the only reason for me not to have a child would have been that it was an inconvenience to my career, and that wasn't a good enough excuse for me not to have my son."

At a Glance …

Born on May 25, 1975, in South Orange, New Jersey; daughter of Mal (a computer analyst) and Valerie (a teacher) Hill; married Rohan Marley, date unknown; children: Zion David, Selah Louise, Joshua, John. Education: Attended Columbia University.

Career: Actress, singer, songwriter, and producer. The Fugees, member, 1988-1997; solo artist, 1997-; The Fugees, brief reunion performances, 2004, 2005; The Refugee Project, youth outreach program, founder, 1996-2000.

Awards: Two Grammy Awards for Best R&B song by a duo or group, for "Killing Me Softly with His Song," and for best rap album, The Score; 1997; triple platinum certification, November 1998, for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Recording Industry Association of America; five Grammy Awards, including two for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, best R&B song for "Doo Wop (That Thing)," best new artist, and best female R&B vocalist; Essence Award, for humanitarian work, 1998; three NAACP Image Awards, 1999; two American Music Awards, for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 2000.

Addresses: Web—www.laurynhill.com.

Carrying a child, Hill has said, gave her even more energy—she recorded a track with gospel star CeCe Winans the day before she gave birth—and she wrote over two dozen songs for her own project. Hill's solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was released in August of 1998. Writing in Essence, Young called it "one of the most anticipated albums of the year by fans and industry insiders." It debuted to platinum sales. On it was a tribute to her son, named Zion David, titled "Joy of my World Is in Zion." Time magazine put Hill on the cover, and inside wrote about her and other African American artists such as Maxwell and Erykah Badu who were producing a fresh wave of "emotionally relevant" music that seemed to embody what writer Christopher John Farley called the "neo-soul" movement. Farley termed Hill's solo debut "the kind of galvanizing work neo-soul needs: unabashedly personal, unrelentingly confrontational, uncommonly inventive."

Hill has also become one of the most lauded of behind-the-scenes talents as well. She executive-produced Miseducation, and went to Detroit to work with Aretha Franklin and wrote the song "A Rose Is Still a Rose" for the Queen of Soul, which became the title track for Franklin's album. Hill also directed its video. "She's positive, detailed, conscientious," Franklin said of Hill to McLane in Harper's Bazaar. "Frankly, I was surprised to see that in such a young woman," she continued. Still, Hill found that fighting for control over her talents was not easy in the music industry, and she ultimately realized that success of her vision brought with it its own demons. "This is a very sexist industry," Hill told Young in the Essence interview. "They'll never throw the 'genius' title to a sister. They'll just call her diva and think it's a compliment."

In addition to her musical career, Hill sought opportunities to give back to her community. In 1996 she founded the Refugee Camp Youth Project, an outreach organization aimed at improving the lives of children in places like Haiti, Zaire, Kenya, Uganda, and New Jersey. The organization's projects included a day camp for inner-city kids in New Jersey and well-building projects in Africa. Hill's charity put on the first ever concert by an American act in Haiti. Over 75,000 showed up, including the country's president, for the benefit concert for the country's orphanages and rehabilitation camps. The money was mismanaged, some say by the Haitian government, but a second concert in Miami also garnered money for the foundation. Hill also organized "Hoodshock" in Harlem, which featured the late Notorious B.I.G. and the Fugees among others. In July of 2001, she teamed with Marc Anthony and Luther Vandross in a benefit concert, called "Aftershock," to provide relief to earthquake victims in India and El Salvador. The Refugee Camp Youth Project closed its doors in late 2000.

Turned from the Limelight

At the height of her popularity, Hill did something unusual: she retreated from the public eye. Hill bought her parents' house in South Orange, New Jersey, and eventually had three more children with Marley, whom she eventually married. And though she did not grant interviews and limited her appearances, Hill continued to compose her music. Her 2002 release of a performance on MTV Unplugged highlighted a new side of Hill, a side full of pain and emotion. Her emotional acoustic performance shocked fans who had pigeonholed her music talents into the hip-hop renditions of her earlier work, but her commanding lyrics and vocal performance marked a new high in her artistic career.

Slowly, Hill sought out performance opportunities, appearing with the Fugees for the first time since the late 1990s at various concerts in 2004 and 2005. Hill reemerged with a keen focus on her artistic vision, not a desire to please critics. In Trace magazine, her first interview in five years, Hill declared that the music she creates from now on "will only be to provide information to my own children," adding "If other people benefit from it, then so be it." She spoke of work on a new solo album and the possibility of a new album with the Fugees.

Selected works

Albums

(With the Fugees) Blunted on Reality, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1993.

(With the Fugees) The Score, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1996.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1998.

The Lauryn Hill Story, Chrome Dreams, 2000.

MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, Columbia, 2002.

Greatest Hits, 2003.

Films

Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, 1993.

Restaurant, 2000.

Sources

Periodicals

Essence, August 1996, p. 85; June 1998, p. 74.

Harper's Bazaar, April 1998, pp. 204-208.

Rolling Stone, September 5, 1996.

Time, July 6, 1998, pp. 85-86.

Trace, July 14, 2005.

Vibe, March 1996; June/July 1996; August 1998.

On-line

Lauryn Hill, www.laurynhill.com (August 4, 2005).

"Lauryn Hill Returns to the Limelight," CNN, www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/07/13/people.laurynhill.ap/?section=cnn_showbiz (August 4, 2005).

"Lauryn Hill: She Knows Why the Caged Bird Sings," Horizon Magazine, http://horizonmag.com/1/hill.htm (August 4, 2005).

—Carol Brennan and Sara Pendergast

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"Hill, Lauryn." Contemporary Black Biography. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Hill, Lauryn

LAURYN HILL

Born: South Orange, New Jersey, 25 May 1975

Genre: R&B, Rap

Best-selling album since 1990: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

Hit songs since 1990: "Doo Wop (That Thing),""Ex-Factor"


Lauryn Hill launched a solo career just a year after her hip-hop group, the Fugees, had rocketed to international stardom with their second album, The Score (1996). The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) was hailed as a masterpiece, fusing timeless Motown soul and R&B with a hip-hop sensibility and the sound of a strong female voice. While the photogenic Hill became a star all over again, her group splintered, and she struggled with the price of fame, dropping out of the music business only to return four years later with a confounding two-CD set of new material that lacked the polish of her earlier work.

Born in 1975 in South Orange, New Jersey, Lauryn Hill grew up in the shadow of public housing, surrounded by the sounds of old-school R&B from her parents' vast record collection. Her father, Mal, was a computer analyst and former professional singer; her mother, Valerie, was a teacher in nearby Newark. Hill made her performing debut at the age of thirteen on Showtime at the Apollo, singing Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You." A track star in school, Hill had also been stealing off to the city to audition for acting parts, landing a recurring role on the CBS daytime drama As the World Turns in the early 1990s and a bit part in the 1993 Whoopi Goldberg movie Sister Act II: Back in the Habit.

Both Lauryn and her brother, Malaney, were sent to an academically challenging high school, Columbia High, where Hill met Prakazrel "Pras" Michel, a budding rapper, who asked Hill to join his rap group, the Fugees-Tranzlator Crew. With the addition of Michel's cousin, Wyclef Jean, the trio came together as the Fugees, and Hill deferred full-time college study in order to attend Columbia University part time and concentrate on her career.

The trio released their debut album, Blunted on Reality (1993), which met disappointing sales and poor critical response. Two remixed tracks became underground hits, highlighting Hill's combination singing/rapping style, which became the centerpiece of the group's breakthrough album, The Score (1996). With a smash hit cover of the 1973 Roberta Flack hit "Killing Me Softly with His Song" and the hit "Ready or Not," the album became the best-selling rap album in history.

The group was saddled with resentments and tension, much of it caused by the focus on Hill and persistent rumors that she would split to go solo. By late 1996 Hill was pregnant with a son sired by Rohan Marley, the off-spring of late reggae great Bob Marley; although she continued to deny rumors of a solo career, Hill recorded a solo gospel track with CeCe Winans, "The Sweetest Thing," for the soundtrack to the film Love Jones and began work on the songs that would appear on her solo debut. Both Jean and Michel recorded solo albums during this period.


A Record-Breaking Solo Debut

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), Hill's solo debut, took the soul/hip-hop mix of the Fugees's album to a new level, debuting with sales of 400,000 copies in its first week, a record for a black female artist. The album is a seamless mix of Hill's socially conscious lyrics, confident rapping, and soulful alto singing over hip-hop, gospel, reggae, and doo-wop backing; it quickly sold 1 million copies and landed Hill on the cover of Time magazine. The chanting, reggae-inspired "Lost Ones" appears to lash out at her former band mates and their materialism ("It's funny how money change a situation / Miscommunication leads to complication / My emancipation don't fit your equation"), though, on a whole, the album eshews confrontation in favor of notes of conciliation and peace. Tracks such as the slow-rolling ballad "Ex-Factor" and the Latin-tinged "To Zion" expand Hill's musical palette in previously unexplored directions while making social and political statements on subjects such as racism, sexism, the loss of community, and the wonders of motherhood. The alluring single and video for the hip-hop soul anthem "Doo Wop (That Thing)" were inescapable for many months, helping to further integrate the sound of hip-hop onto mainstream pop radio and MTV.

When Jean and Michel's solo albums weren't as well received, rumors constantly swirled that the group would be getting back together. Nominated for eleven Grammys, Hillwho produced, wrote, and arranged the albumwas awarded five, beating Carole King's 1971 record of four for her album Tapestry. Spin magazine named her "Artist of the Year" and Hill wrote, produced, and directed the video for the track "A Rose Is a Rose" for Aretha Franklin's 1998 album of the same name, garnering two more Grammy nominations.

With the birth of her daughter, Selah, in 1999 and a lawsuit (later settled) by a quartet of songwriters claiming they had helped write and produce songs on the album, Hill retreated from the limelight. A long silence ensued, broken periodically by rumors of a new album by Hill or by the occasional comment by Jeanby now a successful solo artist and producerthat he would welcome a Fugees reunion.

When Hill took tentative steps back into the spotlight in early 2000 and 2001, it was alone with her acoustic guitar, performing new songs during which she invariably broke down in tears. During her break, Hill told interviewers she had undergone a paralyzing identity crisis that had led her to reconnect with God and shed most of her entourage and star trappings. The evidence is in the spiritually based songs on MTV Unplugged 2.0 (2002), a two-CD set of live versions of new material from an MTV special recorded nearly a year earlier. Stripped-down, emotionally raw songs such as "Mr. Intentional," "Freedom Time," and "Mystery of Iniquity" feature just Hill and her guitar, eschewing traditional pop structures in favor of often rambling, folk-rock-like tales of redemption spiked with Biblical imagery and vignettes of self-doubt and confusion. Hill had also traded her former high-fashion look in favor of jeans, a T-shirt, and a head scarf over her nearly bald pate. The new sincerity is summed up in the lyrics to "I Gotta Find Peace of Mind": "Please don't be mad with me, I have no identity / All that I've known is gone, all I was building on."

After breaking free from the Fugees, Lauryn Hill became an acclaimed female hip-hop artist with a solo debut that sold more than 15 million copies. The acclaim was short-lived, however, as her baffling follow-up album confounded critics and painted a portrait of an artist who had been so overwhelmed by fame that she shed not only the trappings of stardom but also the very musical elements that had made her a star just a few years earlier.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1998); MTV Unplugged 2.0 (Sony, 2002).With the Fugees: Blunted on Reality (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1993); The Score (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1996).

SELECTIVE FILMOGRAPHY:

King of the Hill (1993); Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993); Rhyme & Reason (1997); Hav Plenty (1997); Restaurant (1998).

WEBSITE:

www.laurynhill.com.

gil kaufman

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Kaufman, Gil. "Hill, Lauryn." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Kaufman, Gil. "Hill, Lauryn." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (June 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3428400237.html

Kaufman, Gil. "Hill, Lauryn." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. 2004. Retrieved June 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3428400237.html

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