At her peak, Lauryn Hill was one of the most highly regarded artists, not only in Hip Hop, but in music in general. She captivated the world with both her singing voice and her lyrical prowess as an MC.
Her success with the Fugees, as well as her memorable role in the film “Sister Act 2″, catapulted her to stardom. Her debut album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” was commercially and critically successful, earning her five Grammy Awards, including the coveted Album of the Year award (the first time it was won by a Hip Hop artist – a landmark moment for the genre) and Best New Artist award. Hill had emerged as a cultural icon.
However, once Hill achieved this success, her life began to spiral towards an emotional crisis. She began a romantic relationship with Bob Marley’s son, Rohan, which led to six children. Her priorities were changing and her children became her primary focus. She grew dissatisfied with the music industry and felt that she was being unfairly controlled by her record label. Her passion for music was dwindling, all while fans were hungry for new music. She dropped out of the public eye, into a self-imposed exile. She returned to the limelight briefly with an appearance on MTV’s Unplugged, where she gave an intimate performance with an acoustic guitar to a small audience, but many critics criticized the lack of confidence in her vocals and considered her songs to be unfinished products. Fans were expecting the next “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” but the Unplugged record instead left many fans divided.
Hill has toured many times in recent years, including appearances at Rock The Bells, but her live performances have been subject to harsh criticism. Fans have criticized her singing ability, chronic tardiness to shows, and underwhelming stage presence, even resorting to booing her at her concerts and demanding refunds. Lauryn Hill, who was once destined for greatness, was now the subject of ridicule.
Fast forward to today, where Hill finds herself in the news once again, but for the wrong reasons. Hill recently pleaded guilty to tax evasion in a New Jersey court, after failing to file returns between 2005 and 2007, and could now face a hefty fine and three years in prison. Hill has still been collecting royalties from her music and film work during her time away from the limelight, which makes this seemingly more baffling.
In a statement issued to her fans, Hill wrote: “I kept my life relatively simple, even after huge successes. But it became increasingly obvious that certain indulgences and privileges were expected to come at the expense of my free soul, free mind and therefore my health and integrity.”
Hill’s career exemplifies how difficult it is for music artists to maintain their success. ”The Score” and “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” were more successful than Hill could have ever imagined, but she found it difficult to cope with the high expectations that followed after. Rejuvenating her career seems like a long shot at this point, but who knows what the future holds. Perhaps Hill will once again find the passion to make music again in the future but her days as a cultural icon are far behind her.