The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the debut solo album by American recording artist Lauryn Hill, released on August 25, 1998, by Ruffhouse Records and Columbia Records. After touring with her former group Fugees, Lauryn Hill became involved in a serious relationship with Rohan Marley, and shortly after, became pregnant with his child. This pregnancy, as well as other circumstances, would inspire her to make a solo album. Recording sessions took place from late 1997 to June 1998, and were held mainly at Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston, Jamaica. Primarily a neo soul album, The Miseducation incorporates musical styles from R&B, hip hop, soul, and reggae. Its lyrics touch upon Hill's pregnancy and the turmoil in the Fugees, along with themes of love and God. The album's title was inspired by the film and autobiographical novel The Education of Sonny Carson, and Carter G. Woodson's The Mis-Education of the Negro.

The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 422,624 copies in its first week, which broke a record for first week sales by a female artist. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill produced three hit singlesâ€""Doo Wop (That Thing)", "Ex-Factor", and "Everything Is Everything". Its lead single "Doo Wop (That Thing)" peaked at number one in the US, with the latter two singles peaking within the top forty. The album's success propelled Lauryn Hill to international superstardom, and contributed to bringing hip hop and neo soul to the forefront of popular music. At the 41st Grammy Awards, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill earned 10 nominations, winning five, making Lauryn Hill the first woman to receive that number of nominations, as well as awards in one night. On December 17, 2001, it was certified 8x platinum and, as of April 2012, has sold over 7,106,000 copies in the US. Worldwide, the album has sold over 19 million copies.

Initially, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill received a great amount of critical praise for its lyric themes and genre variance. It was frequently complimented for Hill's honest presentation of a female's view on life and love. Since its release, the album has perpetuated its acclaim from most music critics. It has been ranked in numerous best-album lists, with many past and contemporary critics regarding it as one of the greatest albums of the 1990s, as well as one of the greatest albums of all time. Rolling Stone magazine later called it a "stunning musical document" that she "wraps in a raw, completely human sound". In 2015, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for inclusion in the National Recording Registry.


The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

While on The Score Tour with the Fugees, Lauryn Hill met Rohan Marley, son of reggae musician Bob Marley. The two gradually formed a close relationship, and while on this tour, Hill became pregnant with his child. This pregnancy, along with several other circumstances, would inspire her to make a solo record which would eventually become The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In late 1996, fellow Fugee member Wyclef Jean began writing and recording his debut solo album The Carnival, to which Hill produced several songs and provided guest verses and vocals. After the album's completion, Hill took time off from touring and recording due to her pregnancy and cases of writer's block. This pregnancy, however, would renew Hill's creativity, as she would recall in an interview several years later: "When some women are pregnant, their hair and their nails grow, but for me it was my mind and ability to create. I had the desire to write in a capacity that I hadn't done in a while. I don't know if it's a hormonal or emotional thing.[...] I was very in touch with my feelings at the time." Of the early writing process, Hill said, "Every time I got hurt, every time I was disappointed, every time I learned, I just wrote a song."

While inspired, Hill wrote over thirty songs in her attic studio in South Orange, New Jersey. Many of these songs drew upon the turbulence in the Fugees, as well as past love experiences. In the summer of 1997, as Hill was due to give birth to her first child, she was requested to write a song for gospel musician CeCe Winans. Several months later, she went to Detroit to work with soul legend Aretha Franklin, writing and producing the "A Rose is Still a Rose", the lead single of the album of the same name. Aretha would later have Hill direct the song's music video. Shortly after this, Hill did writing work for Whitney Houston. Having now written songs for artists in gospel, hip hop and R&B, Hill brought all of these influences and experiences to bear upon an album of her own.


Recording for the album began in late 1997 at Chung King Studios in New York, and was cpmpleted in June 1998 at Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica. In an interview, Hill described the first day of recording, stating: "The first day in the studio I ordered every instrument I ever fell in love with: harps, strings, timpani drums, organs, clarinets. It was my idea to record it so the human element stayed in. I didn't want it to be too technically perfect." Initially, Wyclef Jean did not support Hill recording a solo album, but eventually offered his production help, which she did not accept.

Aside from doing work at Chung King Studios, Hill also recorded at Perfect Pair Studios in New Jersey, as well as Sony Studios, with some songs having different elements recorded at different studios. The bulk of the album, however, was recorded at Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, the studio built by reggae legend Bob Marley. Regarding this shift in environment, Hill stated: "When I started recording in New York and New Jersey, lots of people were talking to me about going different routes. I could feel people up in my face, and I was picking up on bad vibes. I wanted a place where there was good vibes, where I was among family, and it was Tuff Gong." Many members of the Marley family were present in the studio during the recording sessions, among them Julian Marley, who added guitar elements to "Forgive Them Father."

In an interview, recording engineer Gordon "Comissioner Gordon" Williams recalled the recording of "Lost Ones", stating: "It was our first morning in Jamaica and I saw all of these kids gathered around Lauryn, screaming and dancing. Lauryn was in the living room next to the studio with about fifteen Marley grandchildren around her, the children of Ziggy, and Stephen, and Julian, and she starts singing this rap verse, and all the kids start repeating the last word of each line, chiming in very spontaneously because they were so into the song." Columbia Records considered bringing in an outside producer for the album and had early talks with RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. However, Hill was adamant about writing, arranging, and producing the album herself: "It would have been more difficult to articulate to other people. Hey, it's my album. Who can tell my story better than me?" She recalled Ruffhouse Records executive Chris Swartz ensuring her artistic freedom while recording the album: "I had total control of the album. Chris Swartz at Ruffhouse, my label, said, 'Listen, you've never done anything stupid thus far, so let me let you do your thing.'"

Music and lyrics

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

A neo soul album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill incorporates musical styles such as R&B, soul, hip hop, and reggae. Some songs are based in hip hop soul. "When It Hurts So Bad" is musically old roots reggae mixed with soul. While mostly in English, "Forgive Them Father" and "Lost Ones" both feature singing in patois, which is the common dialect in Jamaica. Although heavily R&B, the song "Superstar" contains an interpolation of the song "Light My Fire" by the classic rock band The Doors. Hill said that she "didn't want to come out with a Refugee All-Stars type of sound", but create "something that was uniquely and very clearly a Lauryn Hill album." She also said that she did not intend for the album's sound to be commercially appealing: "There's too much pressure to have hits these days. Artists are watching Billboard instead of exploring themselves. Look at someone like Aretha, she didn't hit with her first album, but she was able to grow up and find herself. I wanted to make honest music. I don't like things to be too perfect, or too polished. People may criticize me for that, but I grew up listening to Al Green and Sam Cooke. When they hit a high note, you actually felt it."

The majority of The Miseducation‍ '​s lyrics were written in Hill's attic during her first pregnancy, with much of the content dealing with motherhood, the Fugees, reminiscence, love, heartbreak, and God. Commenting on the album's gospel content, Hill stated "Gospel music is music inspired by the gospels. In a huge respect, a lot of this music turned out to be just that. During this album, I turned to the Bible and wrote songs that I drew comfort from." Several of the album's songs, such as "Lost Ones," "Superstar," "Ex-Factor" and "Forgive Them Father" were widely speculated as direct attacks at Fugee members Wyclef and Pras. "Ex-Factor" was originally intended for a different artist, however, Hill decided to keep it after it was completed, due to its personal content. Although a large portion of the album's love songs would turn out to be bitter from Hill's previous relationship, "Nothing Even Matters," a duet performed by Hill and D'Angelo, showcased a brighter, more intimate perspective on the subject. The song was inspired by Lauryn's relationship with Rohan Marley. Speaking about "Nothing Even Matters"' lyrics, Hill remarked: "I wanted to make a love song, á la Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, and give people a humanistic approach to love again without all the physicality and overt sexuality."

"To Zion," among the more introspective tracks on the album, spoke about how Hill's family comes before her career and her decision to have her first child, even though many at the time encouraged her to abort this pregnancy, as to not conflict with her blossoming career. In an interview she discussed the song's origin and significance, commenting "Names wouldn't come when I was ready to have him. The only name that came to me was Zion. I was like, 'is Zion too much of a weight to carry?' But this little boy, man. I would say he personally delivered me from my emotional and spiritual drought. He just replenished my newness. When he was born, I felt like I was born again." She further stated: "I wanted it to be a revolutionary song about a spiritual movement, and also about my spiritual change, going from one place to another because of my son."

Throughout The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, several interludes of a teacher speaking to what is implied to be a classroom of children are played. The "teacher" was played by Ras Baraka (poet, educator and politician) speaking to a group of kids in the living room of Hill's New Jersey home. Hill requested that Baraka speak to the children about the concept of love, to which he improvised in the lecture. Slant Magazine's Paul Schrodt remarked on the title's reference to Carter G. Woodson's The Mis-Education of the Negro: "[Hill] adopts Woodson's thesis and makes it part of her own artistic process. Like the songs themselves, the intro/outro classroom scenes suggest a larger community working to redefine itself."

Critical reception

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill received rave reviews from contemporary music critics, and was the most acclaimed album of 1998. Reviewers frequently praised it for Hill's honest presentation of a female's view on life and love. Eric Weisbard of Spin called Hill a "genre-bender" whose confident singing and rapping is balanced by vulnerable themes and sentiment. Ann Powers of The New York Times found it "miraculous" and "exceptional" for Hill to use "her faith, based more in experience and feeling than in doctrine," to "connect the sacred to the secular in music that touches the essence of soul." AllMusic's John Bush was impressed by how Hill produced most of the album, "not as a crossover record, but as a collection of overtly personal and political statements", while demonstrating "performing talents, vocal range, and songwriting smarts". David Browne, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called it "an album of often-astonishing power, strength, and feeling", and praised Hill for "easily flowing from singing to rapping, evoking the past while forging a future of her own". Dream Hampton of The Village Voice, said that the album is "majestic" in "the seamlessness with which [Hill] travels her realm within any given song." Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune felt that, despite its "between-songs interludes and skits", the album is a "vocal tour de force" with arrangements that "bristle with great ideas".

In a less enthusiastic review, Pitchfork Media's Neil Lieberman said that the album is highlighted by vivid lyrics and attractive hooks, but has flaws such as a diffuse running time, tedious ballads, and Hill's occasional "sweet tooth for cheesy '70s tunes". John Mulvey of NME felt that the album is "essential" even with "churlish" quibbles of certain elements, including redundant skits and Hill's "propensity" for histrionics and declarations of "how brilliant God is". Q magazine's Dom Phillips felt that the music's only flaw is "a lack of memorable melody" on songs that do not utilize interesting samples. In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave the album a three-star honorable mention, which indicates "an enjoyable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure." He cited "Lost Ones" and "Superstar" as highlights and quipped, "PC record of the yearâ€"songs soft, singing ordinary, rapping skilled, rhymes up and down, skits de trop, production subtle and terrific".


At the 41st Grammy Awards in 1999, Hill was nominated ten times, making her the first woman to ever be nominated ten times in one year. She won five Grammys, including Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Album and Album of the Year, making The Miseducation the first hip hop oriented album to ever receive that award. Hill set a new record in the industry, as she also became the first woman to win five Grammys in one night. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill also earned her several other awards, including several nominations at the thirteenth NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Female Artist, Outstanding Album, Outstanding Music Video (for "A Rose Is Still A Rose"), and finally, competing against her own self, for Outstanding Song, nominated for both "Doo Wop" and "A Rose Is Still A Rose."

At the Annual Billboard Music Awards, The Miseducation won for R&B Album of the Year, while at the 20th Billboard Music Awards, "Doo Wop" won Best R&B/Urban New Artist Clip. On January 11, 1999, at the 26th Annual American Music Awards, Hill won the award for Best New Soul/R&B artist. She also won a Soul Train award, and a nomination for Best International Female Solo Artist at the Brit Awards.

  • Information regarding accolades is extracted from,except for accolades with additional sources.
  • (*) Signifies unordered lists

Commercial performance

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart in the week ending August 30, 1998, on sales of 422,624 copies. The album's debut broke the record for first-week sales by a female artist. It topped the Billboard 200 for a second consecutive week, during which it sold 265,000 copies. In less than a month, the album had sold one million copies. On September 29, 1998, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipments of 500,000 copies in the United States. The album spent 81 weeks on the Billboard 200, and topped the Billboard Year-End Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was promoted with three singlesâ€""Doo Wop (That Thing)", "Ex-Factor", and "Everything Is Everything"â€"all of which became hits and produced popular music videos. "Doo Wop" charted at number 1 and number 3 in the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively, and "Ex-Factor" reached number 22 and number 4, respectively. The album's sales increased after Hill's appearance at the Grammy Awards, as it sold 234,000 more copies in the week of March 3, 1999, and 200,000 copies the following week. The album had sold 10 million copies worldwide, including nearly 700,000 in Canada, by August. On December 17, 2001, it was certified 8x platinum by the RIAA. In April 2002, Columbia said that the album had sold 12 million copies worldwide. According to 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die (2008), The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill has sold 18 million copies worldwide. By 2013, it had sold more than eight million copies in the US.


Initially, there was no immediate tour planned due to the album not needing the promotion, and Hill was pregnant again with a child due in September 1998. Her first live performances of the songs were at Saturday Night Live and the Billboard Music Awards. In January 1999, Hill recruited a band and began rehearsals for what would become The Miseducation Tour. As soon as the tour was announced, tickets immediately sold out.

The Miseducation Tour began at Budokan in Tokyo on January 21, 1999. Hill performed there again the following night, and played at two other Tokyo venues in the following week. One week later, she flew to London for her performance at the Brixton Academy on February 8, 1999. With 20 U.S. dates total, the American part of the tour, which featured Outkast as the opening act, started on February 18 in Detroit, and ended on April 1, 1999, at Hill's hometown, Newark, New Jersey. After the U.S. dates, she flew to Japan, where the tour was finished.


Though The Miseducation was largely a collaborative work between Hill and a group of musicians known as New Ark (Vada Nobles, Rasheem Pugh, Tejumold and Johari Newton), there was "label pressure to do the Prince thing," wherein all tracks would be credited as "written and produced by" the artist with little outside help. While recording the album, when Hill was asked about providing contracts or documentation to the musicians, she replied: "We all love each other. This ain't about documents. This is blessed."

In 1998, New Ark filed a 50-page lawsuit against Hill, her management and her record label, stating that Hill "used their songs and production skills, but failed to properly credit them for the work." The musicians claimed to be the primary songwriters on two tracks, and major contributors on several others, though Gordon Williams, a prominent recorder, engineer, and mixer on The Miseducation described the album as a "powerfully personal effort by Hill" and stated, "It was definitely her vision." In response to the lawsuit, Hill claimed that New Ark took advantage of her success. New Ark requested partial writing credits, and monetary reimbursement. The suit was eventually settled out of court in February 2001 for a reported $5 million.


Due to the large success of the album, Hill became a national media icon, as magazines ranging from Time to Esquire to Teen People vied to place her on their front covers. In a February 8, 1999, Time cover-story, Hill was credited for helping fully assimilate hip-hop into mainstream music, making her the first hip hop artist to ever appear on the magazine's front cover. In 2012, it was included at number 314 in Rolling Stone‍ '​s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, its entry reading, "Hill took Seventies soul and made it boom and signify to the hip-hop generation on her solo debut. The production was subtle and glorious on heartbreakers such as "Ex-Factor" and the swinging sermon "Doo Wop (That Thing)." Jon Caramanica, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), called it "as earnest, unpretentious, and pleasantly sloppy an album as any woman of the hip-hop generation has ever made", and said that, by appealing to a wide spectrum of listeners with hip hop filtered through a "womanist lens", the album propelled Hill to superstardom "of epic proportions" and "the focal point at hip-hop's crossover into the mainstream." Music journalist Peter Shapiro cited it as "the ultimate cross-over album of the hip-hop era."

Along with Erykah Badu's 1997 debut Baduizm, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was also an important release in the neo soul music scene. It brought neo soul to the forefront of popular music, and became the genre's most critically acclaimed and popular album. According to the Encyclopedia of African American Music (2010), "some tracks are based more in hip hop soul than neo soul, but the record is filled with live musicians and layered harmonies, and therefore it is a trendsetting record that connects modern hip hop, R & B, and classic soul music together, creating groundwork for what followed it in the neo soul genre."" On its fifteenth anniversary, American rapper Nas reviewed the album for XXL giving it the publication's highest rating. He wrote, "it's a timeless record, pure music [...] It represents the time periodâ€"a serious moment in Black music, when young artists were taking charge and breaking through doors [...] Beyond that, musically, the contentâ€"it's an album that everyone today should listen to if they wanna make an album. No matter who you areâ€"â€"R&B, rap, rock, soul, whateverâ€"â€"you wanna make an album, I would say everyone should take a listen to this before you start working on yours."

Track listing

All songs written and produced by Lauryn Hill, except where indicated.

Sampling credits
  • "Lost Ones" samples "Super Hoe" by Boogie Down Productions and interpolates "Bam Bam" by Sister Nancy.
  • "Ex-Factor" samples "Can It Be All So Simple" by Wu-Tang Clan.
  • "To Zion" samples "And The Feeling's Good" by José Feliciano.
  • "Doo Wop (That Thing)" samples "Together Let's Find Love" by The 5th Dimension.
  • "Superstar" interpolates "Light My Fire" by The Doors.
  • "I Used To Love Him" samples "Ice Cream" by Raekwon.
  • "Forgive Them Father" samples "Concrete Jungle" by Bob Marley.
  • "Every Ghetto, Every City" interpolates "Heaven and Hell Is on Earth" by 20th Century Steel Band.
  • "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" is a cover of the Frankie Valli song of the same name.





See also

  • List of number-one albums of 1998 (U.S.)
  • List of number-one R&B albums of 1998 (U.S.)
  • List of number-one R&B albums of 1999 (U.S.)
  • Billboard Year-End



  • Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (November 1, 2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  • Furman, Leah; Furman, Elina (1999). Heart of Soul. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-43588-5. 
  • Havranek, Carrie (2009). Women Icons of Popular Music: The Rebels, Rockers, and Renegades, Volume 1. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313340846. 
  • Nickson, Chris (1999). Lauryn Hill: She's Got That Thing. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 0-312-97210-5. 
  • Price, Emmett G., III; Kernodle, Tammy L.; Maxile, Jr., Horace, eds. (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Music, Volume 3. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0313341990. 

External links

  • The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill at Discogs (list of releases)
  • Laura Checkoway, "Inside The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill", Rolling Stone, August 26, 2008.

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