The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill dropped in 1998, when I was in my second year at university. At the time, I was pendulum swinging between punk gigs with radical lesbians, where I loved the politics but secretly didn’t enjoy the music, and hip-hop and R&B club nights where I loved the music but definitely hated the misogyny.
I lived at a Catholic residential college and remembered singing along to Sister Act 2 in my school choirs. So there was something timely about the emancipatory hip-hop, doo-wop, soul and R&B of Ms Hill. I so desperately wanted to be coming into my full self the way that she was; her music gave me an insight into what it would feel like to own your skin, femininity, spirituality and your voice simultaneously.
Listening once again last night from beginning to end, including the Ras Baraka interludes, the album still feels fresh and powerful. I love the moments when her raspy alto combines with D’Angelo’s irresistible sexiness and Mary J. Blige’s iconic power. It still makes me want to dance. And that is saying something, given I’m listening at two in the morning while breastfeeding.
What followed this album, both musically and personally for L. Boogie was confusing, and like everyone else I disconnected from the incoherent narrative of this artist and her music. But that’s the way things go sometimes, no artist owes me their coherence. Nevertheless, while it lasted, her flame burned bright and I warmed my hands at the fire.