I woke up with this burden for Lauryn Hill this morning.
There are many reasons we need Lauryn Hill, the most pressing of which is because people are still surprised when I open my mouth and speak both eloquently and intelligently.
How can I blame them when the pervasive images of Black womanhood are Nicki Minaj, her bubble butt and her Bubble Yum pink G-string or Sweet Brown? Sure! You could counter that with “But Malaka, what about Oprah?” Uh-uh. Oprah is not a “black woman”…she’s Oprah. Oprah is a brand to the mainstream culture; not a person.
I really wanted to write something thought provoking and DEEP about Ms. Hill, but I find myself at a loss for adequate words. I just want to find Lauryn and hug her and shake her and pour my emotion into her. My need for her to understand how much the world needs her and craft and her brilliance is visceral.
Lauryn Hill introduced me to the word “reciprocity” and its proper use. For that alone she earns my eternal thanks. Then she penned and performed a song for her son Zion and spoke not about the fear of raising a Black son, but the joy of it. For a while she fell off the map and went a little “crazy”, but she reemerged and showed us that you can indeed rise from the depths of your despair and grief, and go through fire and eventually shake the ashes and soot from your body.
Does Lauryn Hill KNOW how much she’s needed?!?
There are not many musicians who understand the importance and value of their craft. Music is POWERFUL.
Bible scholars will tell you that before Lucifer’s fall, he was the angel over music…that when the wind blew through his body there was a melody on the other end. God takes delight in music. Melody and verse have been used as instruments of peace and tools to declare war. Music has the power to evoke emotion. Music has the power to heal, as well as destroy. And we live in a time when much of the music we hear is destroying the ONE thing that ensures Black survival on this planet: our intelligence. Everyone – men, women AND children – are getting dumber by the minute, and I believe it’s because Lauryn Hill doesn’t understand just how important she really is! She is one of the few educated voices in music that uses her gift to e-du-cate. I mean, have you heard Black Rage?
We need Lauryn Hill. She is our Nina Simone, our Pied Piper, our Oracle, our link to our glorious future and past.
In 2009, Talib Kweli wrote a song simply entitled ‘Ms. Hill’ to encourage Lauryn to continue in her craft, as well as to let her know how much he admires, loves, and supports her. I hope she heard it and took it to heart. It pained me that her re-entry into the public forum was forced by the need to pay back taxes to the sum of $1.5 million. It pained me even more that she paid the majority of the amount – just shy of a few thousand dollars – and a judge still saw fit to jail her, while in the same year Nicholas Cage was guilty of the same offense and never saw the front steps of a confinement institution. But hey, ain’t that America.
Nevertheless, Lauryn is back and she’s touring and reportedly doing it because she loves it. For people who think that Lauryn Hill exists solely to entertain them, this can be a hard concept to grasp. Cherae Robinson wrote an absolutely shallow (horrible, unserious, ridiculous, foolish, retarded… Jesus be a thesaurus…there aren’t even enough adjectives) article on Face 2 Face Africa about Lauryn Hill’s impending arrival and performance in Ghana this December. She writes:
When Ms. Hill comes to Ghana, she should be prepared to make a big impression, because last time she performed in Africa, she was boo’ed by fans at the Capetown International Jazz Festival.
No, young blood. When Ghanaians attend Ms. Hill’s concert, they should prepare themselves to receive illumination and to share in the experience. Lauryn Hill isn’t some cut rate new artist, chasing your shiny nickels and dimes so she can build herself a faux throne financed by selling her soul. She is a priestess. She is a queen. She is an originator. You don’t go to a Lauryn Hill concert to merely be entertained; you go to be enlightened. And THAT is why Lauryn Hill is so desperately needed in the culture.
Does she know?