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The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Novembre 2018
Quest’album della cantante statunitense è tra i dischi più amati di tutti i tempi nel suo genere. Il suo innegabile successo viene indicato anche dai numerosi campionamenti che in vent’anni hanno realizzato altri artisti e che lo rendono sempre attuale.

di Margaret Stone

Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation
The Miseducation

How can we measure the transcendence of a musical work? Unlike other forms of art, pop music is embedded in the capitalist marketplace, with its distinct products and a huge branding and merchandise apparatus. Is it then sales that determine an album’s worth and influence in popular culture? The awards it wins? It cannot be critical acclaim, surely…

A UNIQUE ALBUM

By any of these standards, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill could be considered a milestone of pop music. Published twenty years ago, it can be argued that not even its author has lived up to it since. After leaving The Fugees – probably one of the first hip hop bands to achieve global recognition – in search of more creative space, Hill delivered a record that brought rap, soul and R&B to a mainstream audience. The record was nominated for ten Grammys – winning five –, and sold more than eight million copies. The world awaited a follow-up, but she never obliged.

NO MORE FANTASY

In 2001 Hill released a live album consisting of folk songs alternated with long spoken dissertations, with the only accompaniment of her acoustic guitar. It was a significant change of direction when compared to the record that made her a global superstar. “Fantasy is what people want, but reality is what they need. And I’ve just retired from the fantasy part,” she said in the recording.

LEGAL ISSUES

Although Hill never officially retired from show business and even toured from time to time, she decided to cut down on her public exposure¡: “I had created this public persona, this public illusion. And it kept me hostage. I couldn’t be a real person because I was afraid of what the public would say.” Disputes with her manager and record label followed, and in 2013 legal problems saw her spending three months in jail after pleading guilty to tax fraud.

MEASURING THE QUALITY

On the twentieth anniversary of The Miseducation, Hill, who was born in 1975 and is the mother of six and the grandmother of one, is touring the world again playing the songs from a record that remains unique in more than one sense. However, among hip hop and black music in general, there is a piece of statistical data that can be used to measure the gravitas of a specific work: how many times it has been sampled by other artists.

SAMPLE IT

Sampling is a technique consisting of using a fragment of a song and manipulating it in order to create a rhythmical baseline for another song. It was invented sometime in the late 1970s and since then it has been widely used, especially in hip hop and electronic music.

HOMAGE TO THE RECORD

It amounts to some extent to peer validation; the more a scientific or academic paper is cited by other papers, the more relevant it is considered to be. If sampling is a way of paying homage to a work of art, artists like Drake, Kanye West, Cardi B and dozens of others all agree that The Miseducation is one of the best records of all time.  


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