Lost One: Remembering ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’

Above clockwise: 'The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill' album cover, the "Everything Is Everything" music video and the "Doo Wop (That Thing)" music video
Above clockwise: 'The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill' album cover, the "Everything Is Everything" music video and the "Doo Wop (That Thing)" music video

Lauryn Hill’s incredible debut album is old enough to drive.

Somehow, 16 years have passed since the female third of The Fugees struck out on her own and set the music world ablaze with her instant classic The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Dropping in late August 1998, the album stands as a genre-crossing gem – a trailblazing mix of hip hop and neo soul that gave Hill the opportunity to showcase her lyrical flow and outstanding vocal range at the same time and establish herself as a musical powerhouse outside of The Fugees.

The Miseducation was an instant smash, becoming the highest-selling debut album by a female artist at the time and turning Hill into a worldwide star. Though she was already established as a talent from her time alongside Wyclef and Pras and the massive success of the group’s rendition of “Killing Me Softly,” this album sent her to a different stratosphere entirely.

How impactful was this album? After earning 10 Grammy nominations, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill became the first hip hop-tinged album to take home Album of the Year, setting the table for OutKast to accomplish the same feat five years later with their genre-bending double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.

Here’s the thing: even if you were deep into hip hop, loved The Fugees and were sitting patiently waiting for this album to drop, it still caught you off guard.

You couldn’t be prepared for how good The Miseducation was – it just wasn’t possible. This was one of the most hotly anticipated albums of 1998 (and certainly that summer) and what Hill put down still genuinely blew people away.

The lead single, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” really set the tone for what to expect from this album – a blend of Hill’s soulful voice and deft ability to deliver rhymes, all while saying something new and fresh and meaningful and unique.

While the chorus was a throwback to soul acts with background singers and Hill rocking a ‘60s style look, the verses were a one-two punch targeting slick men and the women that fall for their games with Hill knocking it out of the park.

The video for the song (remember music videos?) mashed up the two elements beautifully as well, delivering a split screen of Hill styled for both eras. There is a beautiful musicality to both the song and the album and they holds up exceptionally well over time.

Hill has retreated in the years since the release of The Miseducation, falling out with her fellow Fugees, enduring a lawsuit from several artists that worked on the album and dealing with various personal issues during that time, but a sophomore effort has never materialized.

It’s a shame too, because her debut effort was a thing of beauty and Hill was a beautiful, creative voice in a world filled with sameness.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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