As we celebrate international women’s day, I was reminiscing on women in 90’s Hip Hop. Misogyny has always been commonplace in rap but during the 90’s female MC’s were turning this around by embracing hypersexuality of the female form as self-empowerment, yet they would still rap with the same masculine tone and materialistic content to keep up with their peers, but then came Lauryn Hill. Just like a breath of fresh air, she presented a different face of rap, it didn’t have to be gangsta rap, to be authentic, it just had to be true to her personal journey and it was. Very personal and honest, her music had substance, a deeper meaning and we could relate. She spoke about issues no one else did. With this notion Lauryn took it to the next level, not only could she rap she could also sing, I felt like she was a game changer as the first female I saw who could do both and made me believe we as women could do both, in fact we could do anything we wanted too.
A strong black woman exploring feminine issues, she was unapologetically herself, I respected that fact she didn’t feel the need to complete with other female artist by trying to be something she wasn’t. It was ok to be yourself and to excel with your own flava. Lauryn had mad skills to back it up, conscious lyrics, wordplay, flow and delivery, Lauryn Hill was a complete MC. There was no doubt she could hold it own on her own even amongst her male counterparts. As part of the rap group Fugees, she featured on ‘The Source’ an album I’ve listened to over and over, as a member of the Fugees I heard about issues I had never heard being discussed before, heavy on spirituality and politics this music made me feel like we had the power to change the world or at least influence it through knowledge.
Everyone knew the tracks ‘Killing me Softly’ and ‘Ready or Not’ but my favorites from this album were ‘Zealots’ and ‘How Many Mics’, incidentally I noted she had the first verse on both of these tracks. She refused to choose between having a career or a family, she wanted both and did exactly that, recording her solo album, ‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ whilst pregnant. This was the first Hip Hop album to win a Grammy award and this album withheld the test of time, remembered as one of the most influential rap albums by a female MC. It’s still hype 20 years on I found myself at a sold out album rendition event in London.
There may have been controversy around her real life being far from her virtuous lyrics, but who are we to judge, if anything it just shows she is flawed and human just like the rest of us which in my opinion only adds to her authenticity and that of her music.