New Lauryn Hill guesting Ron Isley. Props to Dwayne for shooting this my way.
I don't think I'm very moved. It needs to be said that I think the obsession with Lauryn's comeback has a lot more to do with what she means, than with her actual chops as a singer. I've never been one for potential, and in my eyes Lauryn, as a singer, was never a Jill Scott, an Erykah Badu, a Sade, or even a Mary J. Blige, whose ability to emote and express a song I've always been enthralled by.
But Lauryn was an incredible MC, one of the best of her era. For my money, these are three of the greatest lines ever uttered by a rapper:
Yeah, behold as my odes manifold on your rhymes,Two MCs can occupy the same space, at the same time,It's against the laws of physics...
It was the naturalness of how she delivered the line, the casual, dismissive, "it's against the law of physics," that made it work. When The Score hit, so many of us were fed with rappers running around playing gangsta, and rhyming Italian words that they barely understood. That was the era of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, of budding ultra-macho East vs. West, and fools big-upping designer labels--labels that were, themselves, embarrassed by the association.
In the midst of the madness, Lauryn appeared like an avatar, a deity of what we back at Howard considered real hip-hop--a beautiful, dark-skin black woman, with natural hair, who could spit. If there was anyone who'd lead the revolution against the hordes of pimps and players, it was Lauryn. Miseducation, and her songwriting, brought her broader acclaim. But for her original fans, those of us who remember what she did on the remix of "Vocab," it was always what she meant for hip-hop which captured us.
It's easy to get caught up in how different the music might have been had she stayed. But it's a fool's errand. Lauryn never asked for the burden we heaped on her shoulders, and there's no guarantee that she would have carried it. History is what is, and I have no real complaints about what has become of hip-hop. To the contrary, I'm grateful for those years when I was in love. They changed my life. But off to The Suburbs now, I guess.
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