The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Twenty-Five Years Later, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” Is As Culturally Relevant As Ever

Lauryn Hill performs in 2007. Twenty-five years after her album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” was released, it remains just as culturally relevant as ever.

Lauryn Hill’s hit debut album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” erupted not only the music scene but the zeitgeist of 1998. This past August, the historic album celebrated its 25th anniversary. Growing up as a Black girl with a deep appreciation for music, specifically hip-hop, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” has served as a religious text. Her masterful synthesis of the topics of womanhood, specifically Black womanhood, love and Black selfhood remains extremely culturally resonant even 25 years after the album was released. 

“Miseducation” is momentous for so many reasons. Hill’s combination of neo-soul, hip-hop and reggae was revolutionary and aided the vulnerability of the stories she told throughout the album. More personally, it is Ms. Hill’s love letter to Black women, reminding us of our strength and the power that we hold though the world constantly tells us otherwise. 

In the track, “Everything is Everything,” Hill speaks to Black youth, eloquently explaining the experience of Black children learning for the first time that racism exists in society. She takes us through this realization that many Black youth come to in early childhood. Hill specifically speaks to the intersection of socioeconomic status and race from the perspective of a child asking, “Who made these rules?” after realizing that we “seem to lose the game before we even start to play.” However, she beautifully gives us hope that “after winter must come spring. / Change, it comes eventually.” A beautiful blend of soul, R&B and hip-hop, the sentiment expressed in “Everything is Everything” is one that Black youth still grapple with 25 years later. Incredibly, this song can so accurately speak to the Black youth of this generation, who desperately require the reminder that despite economic and racial barriers, it is very much possible to find success and happiness. Lauryn herself is living proof of this full-circle sentiment 25 years later. 

On the third track of the album, “Ex-Factor,” Hill speaks to the heartbreak and the feeling that many women, especially Black women, share: never being enough to be loved. Hill sings “Tell me who I have to be to get some reciprocity.” This cuts particularly deep for Black women, who often feel rejected in so many ways in broader society, from not seeing themselves in positions of power, as “beautiful” women on the covers of magazines, to not seeing dolls that look like them as children, as well as feeling rejected in romantic relationships. 

This was true 25 years ago and remains true to this day. Women today can almost all relate to a battle with self-worth and how that, in turn, can affect romantic relationships. This song, which combines neo-soul and hip-hop soul, is so beautifully heartbreaking and is such a raw and real expression of the strife for the feeling of acceptance and love. The fusion of rap and soul music–essentially emotional vulnerability–pushed the envelope in unprecedented ways, allowing Hill to convey raw emotions through rap. Her lyricism conveys this feeling of utter desperation: “Care for me care for me, you said you care for me there for me, there for me.”

This album is both deeply personal and unifying; her lyricism, rhythmic knowledge and blending of genres on this album were masterful and widely recognized. “Miseducation” was the first hip-hop album to win the Grammy for Album of the Year. Hill won a total of five Grammys, inspiring many hip-hop and R&B artists of this generation such as Nicki Minaj, SZA and Beyonce with her genius. Her work has even influenced artists in other genres like Adele and Amy Winehouse.

“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is one of the most important works of art of its time and its resounding cultural resonance has touched the hearts and continues to touch the hearts of so many. Songs on this album have gone on to be sampled by artists such as Drake and Kanye West. The only solo album of her career, she has managed to produce a work that makes people feel so deeply. After 25 years, this album continues to hold such power and inspire such hope, in the eponymous track of the album, she sings, “And deep in my heart, the answer, it was in me. And I made up my mind to define my own destiny”. 

To anyone who hasn’t listened, I would recommend Doo-Wop (That Thing) as a first listen. It is an upbeat catchy song, but also integrates beautiful lyricism to speak on sexism and femininity. 

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    Ferlah PitonJan 18, 2024 at 10:59 AM

    My all time favorite album. It has inspired me all my life. Every single track in this album is amazing and relevant. Poetry in music. A gem not just for black women but every woman who struggles to understand her worth in this society. Thank you Lauren Hill for sharing your genius.