For over 20 years now, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill has been regarded as one of the most important hip-hop albums in the genre’s canon. An undisputed classic, The Miseducation set the standards for both artistry and commercial success, yet in that time, the artist herself has rarely given interviews, perhaps put off by a series of controversies at her peak when her responses were taken out of context. However, she broke that trend for the podcast Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums on Amazon Music, responding by email to address the album’s impact and legacy, as well as why she never released a proper follow-up.
Ms. Hill notes that one of the results of her groundbreaking album was cracking the door for Black artists to more openly speak about systemic racism, although she expresses disappointment that she doesn’t get enough credit for doing so, despite taking most of the heat early. Putting it bluntly, “I was called crazy,” she says. “Now, over a decade later, we hear this as part of the mainstream chorus. Ok, so chalk some of it up to leadership and how that works. I was clearly ahead, but you also have to acknowledge the blatant denial that went down with that. The public abuse and ostracizing while suppressing and copying what I had done, with still no real acknowledgment that all of that even happened, is a lot.”
However, although she says she’s also “pretty critical” of her own work, she does appreciate why Miseducation is so universally beloved. “I challenged the norm and introduced a new standard. I believe The Miseducation did that and I believe I still do this — defy convention when the convention is questionable.”
Unfortunately, she says she never received the same level of support for her future endeavors, and detractors sapped her creative energy for producing another work on that level. “The wild thing is no one from my label has ever called me and asked how can we help you make another album, EVER,” she points out. While the label had largely left her to her own devices while recording the album, once it became the cultural juggernaut it had, more people than ever wanted to be associated with her genius. “People had included me in their own narratives of THEIR successes as it pertained to my album, and if this contradicted my experience, I was considered an enemy.”
It’s a shame that Ms. Hill was never able to follow up The Miseducation, that she felt people tried to take advantage of her, and that critics put her through the wringer. Still, though, she has one of the “500 greatest albums” and that’s not nothing. You can listen to the podcast episode, which features H.E.R., Jamila Woods, and more, here.