Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Best Band Ever*

*according to me, at this moment, subject to change

So, this wasn't my best weekend/holiday, in fact it was quite dark and painful and scary but yesterday, I'm not sure if I put her on or if it was an example of iTunes Providence but Lauryn Hill started playing and it kinda helped getting further through the joys of depression. And so since it is so rare that inspiration and a deadline meet, and I haven't done a "new" one of these in weeks, and her career fits this perfectly for me (not a long or incredibly prolific one so I'm not intimidated but with something there) Lauryn Hill is the Best Band Ever.*

The first time I heard of Lauryn Hill I , like a lot of other people had no idea who she was) or would become)- she was just the girl featured rather prominently in Sister Act 2 who could sing the roof off. (and when your mom is a musician and a minister and your older brother is a musical queen, you get repeatedly exposed to such things.) Judging from the outfits this had to have been like 1994 and so she was a few years away from her great success but it was obvious that there was something there- from her rooftop "freestyle" in the cipher

to her piano playing duet of His Eye is on The Sparrow

(it was obviously big in Japan)
to her commanding stage performance at a regional choir competition

(i'm not sure exactly of the plot but I feel it was something like inner city "urban" school in danger of being closed needs to win a choir competition in order to stay open but Lauryn Hill, the best singer and savior isn't allowed to participate, maybe because her musician father left her mom?)
You could definitely see her going someplace big, especially considering she was only like 18 at the time.
Someplace big was found when The Fugees dropped The Score, which I remember being essential. I remember she bought such a melodic element to the group, but her raps were also, if not the best in the group, at least better than Pras'. And her rhyme in Ready or Not is still one of my favorites

play my enemies like a game of chess, where I rest,
No stress
If you don't smoke sess, lest.
I must confess, my destiny's manifest
In some Goretex and sweats I make treks like I'm homeless
Rap orgies with Porgy and Bess,
Capture your bounty like Elliot Ness, YES
Bless you if you represent the Fu
But I'll hex you with some witch's brew if you're Doo Doo
Voo Doo,
I can do what you do, easy, BELIEVE ME
Frontin' niggas give me hee-bee-gee-bees
So while you're imitating Al Capone
I'll be Nina Simone
And defecating on your microphone

but of course the song that was everywhere, absolutely everywhere that probably will pay for Roberta Flack's great great great grand kids' college was Killing Me Softly (I remember when I listened to Howard Stern-i was 13, some slack please- but he said something like ti sounded like Roberta Flack singing on the subway while she was being accosted; racist as that is it stuck with me)

Then they broke up for whatever reasons, egos maybe. Pras wanting to shine. Don't know but for some reason I didn't pay real attention when The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill came out. I think maybe partly it was because I recognized the title from a book that one of my professorial types wanted me to read, or that I wasn't feeling the singles (when I was 14 or 15 I wasn't thinking too much about children, spirituality or relationships and dissolution, at least not in a real way) and I was in a different musical phase (see: 2pac) so I was rather indifferent to it. Plus Ghetto Superstar was huge and I (kinda wanted to be Mya) could see a huge star in Pras Michel and thought at the time (and today) that Bulworth was criminally overlooked. But as I grew up and experienced life and got past the singles that I wasn't that fond of (Doo Wop, Lost Ones) I realized that I absolutely adored her when she sang and that what she was saying was so passionate and uplifting, beautiful and tragic but all so universal and real, which is the feeling that all good art gives off. Like in Everything is Everything
Everything is everything
What is meant to be, will be
After winter, must come spring
Change, it comes eventually

I wrote these words for everyone
Who struggles in their youth
Who won't accept deception
Instead of what is truth
It seems we lose the game,
Before we even start to play
Who made these rules? We're so confused
Easily led astray
Let me tell ya that
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
After winter, must come spring
Everything is everything

Now, everything is everything
What is meant to be, will be
After winter, must come spring
Change, it comes eventually

Sometimes it seems
We'll touch that dream
But things come slow or not at all
And the ones on top, won't make it stop
So convinced that they might fall
Let's love ourselves then we can't fail
To make a better situation
Tomorrow, our seeds will grow
All we need is dedication

and Ex-Factor makes me cry every time I hear it- I don't think I was in love with anyone at this point, but the hurt in her voice you can't help but feel. This may be my favorite song of hers
No matter how I think we grow
You always seem to let me know
It ain't workin'
It ain't workin'
And when I try to walk away
You'd hurt yourself to make me stay
This is crazy
This is crazy
Care for me, care for me
You said you care for me
There for me, there for me
Said you'd be there for me
Cry for me, cry for me
You said you'd die for me
Give to me, give to me
Why won't you live for me

(and looking at that video I realize that subconsciously I've been going for her look-who knew?)
And then her work on soundtracks around this time was just amazing, like Sweetest Thing, such a great song about relationships and all bitter sweetness that goes into them

and her Can't Take My Eyes of Off You which was one of the best thing about Conspiracy Theory (and that I did not realize was a Frankie Vali)
And then she too went away and all anyone heard were rumours that she was going crazy (Chappelle style) or that she was racist and would rather have her kids starve than have white people buy her album
She came back like in 2002 and all anyone could talk about was how much she had changed and how different her music was and how she was done, not realizing that artists have to grow and evolve and change, which is what she is and is what she did According to Wikipedia
For two or three years I was away from all social interaction. It was a very introspective time because I had to confront my fears and master every demonic thought about inferiority, about insecurity or the fear of being black, young and gifted in this western culture. It took a considerable amount of courage, faith and risk to gain the confidence to be myself. I had to deal with folks who weren’t happy about that. I was a young woman with an evolved mind who was not afraid of her beauty or her sexuality. For some people that's uncomfortable. They didn't understand how female and strong work together. Or young and wise. Or Black and divine.

During this time, Hill abandoned celebrity and stopped doing interviews. She stopped watching television and listening to music and explored other methods of expressing herself, including creating and writing an extensive amount of music, poetry, screenplays, clothing designs, etc.
People need to understand that the Lauryn Hill they were exposed to in the beginning was all that was allowed in that arena at that time. There was much more strength, spirit and passion, desire, curiosity, ambition and opinion that was not allowed in a small space designed for consumer mass appeal and dictated by very limited standards. I had to step away when I realized that for the sake of the machine, I was being way too compromised. I felt uncomfortable about having to smile in someone’s face when I really didn’t like them or even know them well enough to like them.I had to fight for an identity that doesn’t fit in one of their boxes. I’m a whole woman. And when I can’t be whole, I have a problem. By the end I was like, I’ve got to get out of here.

and though the songs were more spiritual, lyrical and less formed and radio ready, and so "less accessible" as I've said before there is very little truer than a singer and their guitar, especially one who comes with such vulnerability. In many of these songs you can see her crafting and putting together the song, which is a powerful thing (and something that has been praised about Bob Dylan's I'm Not There) In other words I really loved it
here's I find it Hard To Say (Rebel)

and the vulnerability and emotion in I Gotta Find Peace of Mind

The Mystery of Iniquity , that was memorably sampled by Kanye in All Falls Down

and for her MTV Unplugged performance, it is such a spiritual, deep and emotional one that the lyrics carry a lot of weight and are like those lyrics you actually wanna study because you understand them and how they relater to you but there's something more inside, and I said all that to say "so since I can't post them all you should go here to study them"
After that there were rumours and teases of a Fugees reunion and not much more solo material (besides Lose Myself from Surf's Up- which seemed to me like Happy Feet on Surfboards, I guess her kids love it)

but I still have faith and she's really grown in importance to me over the past year and so I 'm looking forward to whatever she decides to put out

And so since she's inspired many many legions of Youtube covers, she's still only 32 and she spoke truth to power at the Vatican, Lauryn Hill is the Best Band Ever*

buy the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and/or MTV Unplugged 2.o

A Few MP3s:
The Fugees- Killing Me Softly [download]
The Fugees- Ready or Not [download]
Refugee Camp All Stars- Sweetest Thing [download]

Ex-Factor [download]
Everything is Everything [download]
Nothing Even Matters (feat. D'Angelo) [download]
To Zion [download]
When It Hurts So Bad [download]
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill [download]

I Get Out [download]
Oh Jerusalem [download]
I Just Want You Around [download]
I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel) [download]
The Mystery of Iniquity [download]

Can't Take My Eyes Off of You [download]
Franki Vali and the Four Seasons- Can't Take My Eyes Off of You [download]

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