It’s been almost 20 years since Ms. Lauryn Hill dropped her first and only studio album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (if we’re not counting her MTV Unplugged 2.0 live album. What ever happened to those?). A body of work that inspired a multitude of artists and one that’s been hailed as one of the best albums ever created (and one of my personal favorites), Miseducation has gone on to transcend the test of musical time and is nowhere near stopping. 1999 saw Ms. Hill receive 5 Grammy Awards for Miseducation, which at the time was a record for female artists in the industry.
But this just isn’t about the awards and the acclaim, nor is it about the amount of records broken or albums sold (certified 8 times platinum by the RIAA. Had to plug that #boast). This is about how one album helped influence individuals like myself on a creative, spiritual, and emotional level.
Miseducation was released when I was a young, not-so-innocent 6-year-old child. I remember riding with my mother one late winter night listening to “Ex-Factor,” not realizing that the album would become the soundtrack to my life so to speak (thanks Mom!). Years later, after saving up a bit of allowance money, Miseducation became the first album that I ever bought on my own and still own to this day.
When my sister was born and I was forced to give up my bedroom during her playtime (and because the Aquarius in me needed freedom and a closed door for personal solitude), I turned my closet into my own little private sanctuary. I cut out all the pictures from the album’s photo booklet and taped them across my walls, album case sitting on the floor model TV that took up a good 60% of closet space. Miseducation was my 1st real taste of music creativity. I’d always been a creative, writing stories since elementary school, but Miseducation was like allowing my already “too mature for my own age” mind to step into what I assumed the adult world felt like.
Fast forward to now. I’m 25-years-old and Miseducation has a whole different feeling and vibe to me. I stumbled across a video on Twitter recently where Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, and Naomi Campbell were all in a room together and it made me instantly shout, “Lauryn Hill, queen of everything!” But stan aside, it made me revisit Miseducation again. Its been a while since I actually sat and soaked up the gospel because I was still riding the wave that was Rihanna’s 2016 masterpiece, ANTI, which we’ll discuss at a later date ’cause SNUBBED!
Having gone through the motions of early adulthood, struggling with my spirituality and relationship with God, roughing it through 2 relationships that didn’t go as well as I hoped they would, and being able to experience life on a completely different level than the 6-year-old me did when I first heard the album, I’m able to listen to Miseducation from a completely different perspective. It has a whole new meaning to me; Lauryn’s artistry has a whole new meaning to me.
Spiritually, I have always felt connected to Miseducation in a way that allowed me to feel guided when I had no guidance. Maneuvering through my early 20s saw me connect with God, but also disconnect from him. There were moments when I questioned the validity of a higher being when things didn’t make sense; transitioning into Buddhism as a way to distance myself from Christianity only to find myself right back in the arms of the church, only this time in a capacity where I’m able to go and receive the word, appreciate my own personal relationship with God, and apply it to my every day life.
There’s a Q & A session on YouTube where Lauryn describes how at 25, she understands now that her life has a bigger purpose outside of herself and it connects with her relationship with God and what he called her to do. There’s a part where she says,
“…in order to promote something bigger, at the ripe old age of 25, the only thing that I can do is serve others. I’ve been put in this unique position… I have this unique responsibility that God made me aware while I still have the mic.”
I always heard what she was saying, but now it makes more sense. At 25 she understood her relationship with God enough to where her faith seemed impenetrable. And at 25, I’ve reached a place of trying to understand my own relationship with God on a more personal level and how I can strengthen my faith in a way where I’m unshakable. Throughout Miseducation, the spiritual/religious references are immense and appreciated because it brings an understanding or an awareness that life isn’t perfect and one of the main reasons to have a relationship with God is because He knows that we fall short and still manages to forgive us and love us through it all.
“Forgive them father for they know not what they do”
The thing about Miseducation is that it’s a great example of the things that we go through within life and how we can overcome any and every obstacle with love and faith. Dealing with relationships where people take more than they give, loving someone when the love isn’t reciprocated, giving all of yourself to a person (or people) who doesn’t appreciate your worth, the album touches on some deep stuff and tries to relate it all back to using your faith to find a way to overcome.
My favorite song from the album is “Tell Him;” the perfect closing. To go through the ups and downs of life, love and relationships, trials and tribulations, heartbreak and heartache, and end up asking for guidance and forgiveness because you know and understand that the ultimate power is through God or whatever higher being you believe in and that there’s always a solution in the end.
What I love most is how the album also revolves around love; the core message is love and how to love everything about life, taking the good with the bad. Growing up with Miseducation has allowed me to see how the album applies to so many different aspects of my own personal life, whether it be in childhood, during my teenage years, or shifting through adulthood. The emotional feelings guided by the spiritual influences and the amount of love and experience poured into this album is what music is all about.
Coming into my 25th year of living brought about a completely different mindset than what I had before. Things shifted and were brought to light and I’m able to understand Miseducation on a more personal level at this point. It’s kind of like the album has been there to go through the many (and I mean many) phases that I’ve gone through in life, only to have something new to relate to with every phase.
One could hope for another album from Ms. Hill, but I’m sure Miseducation will ride out until the breath stops flowing through this body.