Dreams Of An L-Boogie Revival

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It's amazing that people are still waiting on Lauryn Hill's return. Of course it's gone awry. Again:


The show reviews from the West Coast gigs had already reported that she was speeding up the tempos on all her old cuts. This is, it turns out, not a good thing! While the manic energy Hill and her band was pouring out was appreciated, it meant most of the set list was more or less incomprehensible. (As in: we wish we could complain about Hill skipping her biggest solo hit in "Doo Wop (That Thing)," but we're not actually sure that she did not, in fact, play "Doo Wop (That Thing)"). No complaints about her rapping, but where was the singing? Either unable or unwilling to reprise her past vocal showcases, the choppy live renditions mostly had Lauryn chanting her way through choruses and letting the back-up singers do the rest. 

 The admirably game crowd mostly went with it, and was eventually treated to an amusing, set-ending cavalcade-of-stars from the backstage area, all presumably as curious as any other rap fan to see Lauryn Hill in the flesh. Dragged out, in quick succession, to do nothing more than wave: John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, and, of course, Chris Rock. (Also spotted backstage: Ed Westwick, Jessica Szhor, Bokeeem Woodbine, and Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. God bless you, Rock the Bells.)

More interesting than the possibility of Hill's return, is the reasons why people are still pining for one. It's been a decade. Art is something people do. It's very hard for me to believe that she still has the chops, or has done the work to get her chops back.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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