April 26, 2002


God saves the nu-soul queen : Lauryn Hill fused R&B and hip hop. Now she's added religion to the mix (Akin Ojumu, April 21, 2002, The Observer)
At the end of the last century, Hill was the most exciting artist around; her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), was a landmark that illustrated how the two main strands of contemporary black American music - R&B and hip hop - could fuse. Her precocious album tackled sensitive subjects such as her motherhood and black sexual mores with frankness, straddling so many genres that calling it 'nu-soul' seemed like damnation by faint praise. Though younger than Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Macy Gray, she was the first to make an impact.

Then she disappeared. Her gradual re-emergence has been intriguing. Hill's new double album, MTV Unplugged 2.0 - possible subtitle, 'The Reinvention of Lauryn Hill' - is a work in progress, comprising new songs likely to form the skeleton of the next studio album. Recorded last July, MTV finally premiered the two-hour concert last month. It's easy to see why MTV and her record company were uncertain about the new material. It seems Hill has embraced God and radical politics; she bares her soul during the long interludes between songs in a therapy-speak familiar to Oprah viewers: 'I'm just getting to know the real me', 'I used to be concerned with fantasy, now I'm in touch with reality'. True, Hill and her former band The Fugees, were 'conscious' artists, intent on raising topical issues, but now the singer, who turns 27 next month, uses the uncompromising voice favoured by Public Enemy fuelled by an evangelical zeal. [...]

She has found her own way of bridging the old black music divide between divine and worldly subjects, gospel and soul, that bedevilled earthy predecessors such as Little Richard and Al Green.

Despite moments of self-indulgence, Hill's album only occasionally falters, while some of her singing and rapping is extraordinary. Let's hope we get to hear the finished article one day.

Just that one comparison, to "Public Enemy fuelled by an evangelical zeal", makes us want to give it a listen. Fight the powers, sugar. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2002 8:33 AM
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