October 1998
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The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill- Lauryn Hill
(Ruffhouse/Columbia)

Hip-hop/soul is scarce of artists who are both talented and who can top the charts, but fortunately Lauryn Hill is no secret to the world of music. On her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she puts more creativity, personality, and meaning into one album than most artists in any genre do in a lifetime.

It's only been two years since the Fugees rose above the tired Death Row style of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and sparked the second revolution of hip-hop in the 90's. Their sophomore effort, The Score succeeded in making music more than about raking in the dough and tending your ho's and tricks. Though the Fugees, at least for the meantime, have gone their separate ways, their influence on the music world is stronger than ever. Last year, Wyclef Jean was the first to go solo with The Carnival and a handful of remixes and productions, while "Ghetto Supastar" Pras is preparing to release his in October. But Lauryn Hill has seemingly left the entire Refugee Camp behind for her CD. Written, produced, arranged, and performed by her, this album is all about Lauryn.

Every beat, every "la, la, la", every layered chorus, every piano tinker and horn toot on this album is all timed perfectly. Bass rhythms, fast and gentle, are sprinkled with flutes and bird chirps and guitar plucks and choirs. All of which are also woven into Lauryn's voice as she sings and raps infectious melodies. On "I Used to Love Him", a duet with Mary J. Blige, maracas, sireny twanging, and the occasional "yo, yo, yo" sprout along the bass line and its accompanying background choral hums while L-Boogie and M.J. croon lost love. The chorus interruptingly kicks in before the verses are over. The result is a satisfying blend that differs on every track.

Lauryn often experiments with the format of her music, surprising you by revising a hook or repeating it over and over. On "Everything is Everything," a powerful string section keeps a strict rhythm through almost the entire song but it manages to be one of the more varied tracks on the album. "Doo Wop (That Thing)" only gives you the hook once before it fades to conclusion and "Lost Ones" hypnotizes with "You might win some but you just lost one."

Her lyrics are not meant to directly refer to anyone or anything. On the album's self-titled closer (which is actually followed by two hidden tracks), Lauryn says "Deep in my heart the answer was in me/And I made up my mind to find my own destiny". Miseducation is a collection of what Lauryn Hill believes to be important in life and the rules that she has chosen to live by. In the process, Lauryn Hill has given us the most soulful album of the decade.

A+ [98%]

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