After a whole year of the pandemic and virtual life, you would think we’d have worked out all the technical kinks by now! Alas, our meeting last Thursday began with some glitches but once we got talking, the conversation was high-speed 5G quality! This time around, instead of reading beforehand, we encouraged members to focus on the inspiring source for this month’s book: Lauryn HIll’s iconic, award-winning album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Before delving into Joan Morgan’s She Begat This, we decided pre-gaming for the reading was really the best way to go. Most people have heard the highlights of the album on throwback radio stations and in 90s classic hip hop contexts, but we felt it was important to have everyone experience the album as a whole, in its intended form of consumption. For an album considered one of the best of all time, not only in hip hop but in music in general, it deserves a fine-tuned ear. So the homework for last Thursday’s session was to listen to Hill’s album in full (at least once, though many of us found ourselves listening on repeat for hours). Our conversation moved quickly from favorite song to analysis of the album title, since we found we each had a lot to say and only an hour to do so. There were quite a few key moments in the call that proved extremely insightful.
Using a Tidal article to steer the conversation, I wanted to keep us focused on how and why this album was so impactful in the history of hip hop. I was really impressed with the connections that were made linking specific lyrics and songs to the broader scope of hip hop at the time and it’s evolution to now.
We not only talked about the album in the context of 90s music, but as a predecessor of the neo-soul movement of recent years. Hill’s practice of “obvious, transparent, and tangible storytelling” in this album has become something artists across genres strive to perfect; and Hill is the “Black Girl Genius” behind it. With a mix of soul, reggae, and hip hop roots, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a prime example of well-rounded music; it has what you want and need out of hip hop when it comes to catchy beats, intelligent lyrics, and extraordinary features.
Her first as an independent artist, this album “seamlessly paired singing and rapping to create bangers that were equally mainstream acceptable”. It also paved the way for religious rappers to come and served as an early model for the incorporation of interludes. The message behind the album’s title and the stories told through each song is unlearning what society has taught you to believe you need to be to become who you and Him deem worthy. Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is dense with power and meaning that I am personally very excited to see unpacked in Joan Morgan’s book, She Begat This.
We’ll be returning to this conversation in a few weeks, after reading Morgan’s take. Her book is just about 150 pages; a quick, but interesting read. Join us on March 25th for the second session in this cycle of Books & Booze. Hope to see you there!