For years Lauryn Hill has faced claims that she secretly employed the help of an elite team of musicians to create her culture-shaping album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’
This year, that rumour seemed to be confirmed by the musician Robert Glasper who stepped forward to detail, as far as he sees it, how Lauryn took credit for work she didn’t create.
How she responded?
Find out below…
I’ve remained patient and quiet for a very long time, allowing people to talk, speculate, and project, while keeping my nose to the grindstone fighting for freedoms many folks aren’t even aware matter. The arrogance of presumption that allows someone to think that they could have all the facts about another person’s life and experience, is truly and remarkably… presumptuous.
People can sometimes confuse kindness for weakness, and silence for weakness as well. When this happens, I have to speak up.
I apologize for the delay in getting this posted, I was late in hearing about it. I understand this is long, but my last interview was over a decade ago…
-It’s not completely informed, but he’s entitled to his perception. Context certainly helps though.
-You may be able to make suggestions, but you can’t write FOR me. I am the architect of my creative expression. No decisions are made without me. I hire master builders and masterful artisans and technicians who play beautifully, lend their technical expertise, and who translate the language that I provide into beautifully realized music.
-These are my songs, musicians are brought in because of the masterful way that they play their instruments. I’m definitely looking for something specific in musicians, and I absolutely do hire the best musicians I can find. Not every band had that particular ‘something’ I was looking for. That doesn’t make them bad musicians, just different than what I needed in that particular moment.
-The Miseducation was the first time I worked with musicians outside of the Fugees who’s report and working relationship was clear. In an effort to create the same level of comfort, I may not have established the necessary boundaries and may have been more inviting than I should have been. In hindsight, I would have handled it differently for the removal of any confusion. And I have handled it differently since, I’m clear and I make clear before someone walks in the door what I am and am not looking for. I may have been inclusive, but these are my songs.
-I have come across the occasional musician who thinks they already know what I want, feelings and egos can be easily bruised when you tell them they actually don’t. I am never trying to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings btw, but when people insist that they know you and don’t, you may have to be equally as firm to demonstrate otherwise.
-I am paying for a service, and looking for something SPECIFIC, which isn’t up to someone else’s interpretation or opinion. I have my own idea of what works for me. That shouldn’t offend.
-And I definitely don’t like to fire anyone. It did take me meeting a lot of people over a number of years to find the right musicians, but my current band has been with me for a long time, the newest members probably 2/3 years, some as long as 7/8 years now. I was looking for a similar natural chemistry with new musicians that I’d had with the Fugees and Miseducation bands. I’d literally grown up with some of those musicians. That isn’t easy to find.
-In 2008, I had only a young man helping me and my Mother, after disbanding my former support staff. No idea why any musician would have had knowledge of what I was being paid, not sure what he’s saying is accurate. Don’t have the details or recollection of cutting the band’s pay in half. If fees had been negotiated and confirmed without my knowledge, I may have asked for them to be adjusted. But I would never just cut a musician’s pay arbitrarily unless I had a legitimate reason. There are artists who do cut pay though, James Brown was notorious for docking musicians if they did something he didn’t like, I’m sure there are others.
-It was necessary for me to reestablish trust and cultivate a new environment. I was looking to challenge myself artistically. I was also openly challenging music industry norms. I’d left ‘the machine’. With ‘it’ went some polish, but the cause we were fighting for, creative integrity, was worth far more than a little polish to me.
-When you’re a popular artist or public figure, people can sometimes forget that you’re hiring them to perform a service, and that you’re not the one there to entertain THEM. I didn’t scream or yell. Maybe I didn’t provide the experience that a musician may have wanted or expected during that time, but I was straight-forward, direct, and about the business at hand.
-Making my art is a labor of Love, but it’s still labor, and can be labor-intensive at that. If a musician was looking for a cushy job filled with the same trappings I was purposely weaning myself from, we wouldn’t have been on the same page anyway. Make no mistake, addiction is a common snare laid to dismantle the integrity of artists. My environment, at that time, operated more like a rehabilitation clinic than an after-party.
-I don’t think most people, perhaps not even some celebrated artists, are aware of the battle it takes to be an artist and remain true to what you really think. I don’t even ‘practice’ small talk, so I’m never confused with someone who can be seduced. There are traps all around, what could look like a successful career in entertainment today, could be an addictive lifestyle of convenience attempting to control you tomorrow. I set the tone with every band that working for fame and accolades is a different walk than fighting for personal integrity and making art that doesn’t compromise itself for money.
-I’m confused as to why such a principled musician, who thought I ‘stole’ from his friends, would show up to work for me anyway. ? If that was hypocrisy or opportunism instead of genuine interest, it would further explain why an artist would feel the need to put his or her guard up.
-No matter how incredible the musicians who play with me are, MY name is on the marquee. The expectation to make it all come together is on me. The risk and the financial losses are on me. Hence, MY VIBE, though not the only consideration, is the priority. Few people actually know what this road is like, but many want to judge and comment, having never done it. Try doing what I’ve done yourself. If nothing else, you will gain some insight into and respect for my process.
-During the time in question, I also believe I was playing a lot of new music with controversial content. FOR ME, rehearsal was about readying myself for the battle I knew I was entering into for simply not allowing a system to pimp me. If I was on edge, I had good reason to be.
-Perhaps my seriousness and militancy in the face of tremendous resistance was misinterpreted as meanness, or that I was unloving or uncaring, when my true intent was to protect. I wouldn’t be the first Black person accused of this. I don’t think of Harriet Tubman’s skills as those of a hostess, but rather her relentless dedication to helping people who wanted out of an oppressive paradigm. #IGETOUT
-People also unwilling to ‘play the game’ might have found that environment refreshing. Straight talk isn’t devoid of Love, it’s just devoid of bullsh#t.
-And just to clear up an old urban legend that somehow people still believe, I do not hate white people. I do, however, despise a system of entitlement and oppression set up to exploit people who are different. I do loathe the promotion and preservation of said system at the expense of other people, and the racist and entitled attitudes it gives rise to. The lengthy history of unfairness and brutality towards people of color, especially Black people, has not been fully acknowledged or corrected. The expectation is for us to live with abuse, distortion, and deliberate policies, meant to outright control and contain us — like we’re not aware of our basic right to freedom. I resist and reject THESE ideas completely. Like many Black people, I work to reconcile my own generational PTSD. I do my best to Love, pursue freedom in body, Spirit and mind… and to confront. To repress everything in the name of ‘getting along’ is to deny our right to healing. It’s an ugly, distorting and complicated history at best. We’ve been shaped by it for better or worse. I just choose not to pretend that it’s not there in order to maintain public approval and gain economic advantage. My true white friends and colleagues and I discuss these schemes and machinations, and the distrust that people of color would naturally have toward such a system and towards those who agree with it. We don’t run from those conversations, we run into them, which is why I can call them friends and colleagues. Within these relationships I can be my complete self, and not a splintered individual/soul repressing the truth about generations and generations of abuse.
-There were lots of issues both personal and in the world of entertainment during that period that needed resolve. I was definitely going through a significant transition. I no longer felt safe.
-There’s an entire album about that, it’s documented and called Lauryn Hill MTV Unplugged. For some, the Unplugged album provided useful insight during dark times, gave important context on some real but hidden issues, and helped people going through personal struggles, because I’d exposed myself in such a raw and vulnerable state.
-Who are you to say I didn’t do enough? Most people are probably just hearing your name for the first time because you dropped MINE in an interview, controversially. Taking nothing away from your talent, but this is a fact.
-The Miseducation was my only solo studio album, but it certainly wasn’t the only good thing I did.
-I was also a member of the Fugees, another groundbreaking, multi-platinum selling group, who bridged social and cultural gaps, and were ambassadors of hip-hop all around this planet. We laid important groundwork upon which an entire generation of artists and musicians still stand. We broke through conventions and challenged limited world views every time we played.
-The song To Zion gave encouragement to women during challenging pregnancies. There are children who were given a chance at life because their Mothers experienced moral and emotional support through this song.
-What about the image of Black women in hip hop? When exposure and sexualization of the Black female body was the standard, SOMEONE stood up and represented a different image entirely, giving a generation of young women options and alternatives of self-representation. #AMNESIA
-And let’s not forget that I am a mother of 6…
-Not only have I been instrumental in pushing forward the culture of live music in hip-hop for decades now, but I’ve been traveling with and employing a large band for many years, despite the economic challenges in doing so. Others have followed in my footsteps, seeing the value of live music.
-Show me an artist working now who hasn’t been directly influenced by the work I put in, and I’ll show you an artist who’s been influenced by an artist who was directly influenced by the work that I put in. I was and continue to be a door opener, even if the blind don’t see it, and the prideful are too proud to admit it. I lived this, you watched this and heard about it.
-97.9 The Box, feel free to not play my music if you agree that ‘I haven’t done enough.’
-I never told anyone not to look me in the eye, that may have been something someone said assuming what I wanted. However, I would understand why an artist would say that. It’s about reaching a level of vulnerability while making or playing your art, and not wanting to worry about being examined while you’re in that process.
-There are plenty of people, I’m sure, who THINK they know me. This can happen when you do anything that people Love or feel they can relate to. Their perception of me, however, doesn’t make it my reality. Sister Act II is a movie. Rita Watson is a character I played…in a movie, for those confusing that with real life.
-And yes, Ms. Hill was absolutely a requirement. I was young, Black and female. Not everyone can work for and give the appropriate respect to a person in that package and in charge. It was important, especially then, for that to be revealed early.
-I adore Stevie, and honor Herbie and Quincy, who are our forebears, but they’re not women. Men often can say ‘I want it done like this’ and not be challenged. The same rules don’t always apply for women who may be met with resistance. When this happens you replace that player with someone who respects you and the office you hold.
-My approach to making music is non-traditional, possibly non-linear, and more a product of my heart, soul, and experience gained through doing, than something I was taught in a formal school setting. Not much different than the genre of hip-hop itself.
-I never held myself out as some accomplished guitar player, I play to articulate better to seasoned players what I want. It’s an instrument I learned without any real lessons or instruction. I play in an unorthodox manner and use it as a writing tool. Couldn’t or didn’t tune my own guitar? That sounds like an assumption.
-I take rehearsal seriously, I take performance seriously, I take my art seriously. My particular preparation process suits me. To each his or her own. My goal is to feel confident and free on stage.
-I don’t think my process is for everyone, which is why band selection is so important. It’s not just about how well someone plays, but also their attitude. I’m not offended when people say it’s not for them, no more than they should be offended when I say this doesn’t work for me.
-Auditioning, btw, may have nothing to do with how good a musician is. If a musician isn’t accomplished, he or she wouldn’t have been called. An audition or meeting could be about whether we vibe well, whether they understood my particular musical vernacular or direction at the time. I could have a jazz beast on keys, who couldn’t necessarily play reggae or some other musical style I also incorporated into my performances.
-My sound is eclectic, I’ve been influenced by a wide variety of music. Like language, music isn’t always easily translatable. Someone could be a great player, but lack the ability to capture the feel or groove of a particular style.
-I’m attracted to musicians that are open and excited to try new things. When people think they already know what needs to be known, and aren’t interested in exploring what I’m into, that’s fine, but it doesn’t work for my band.
-A fair weather band is a complete impracticality, a liability even. I’m expected, through my art, to pour out the depths of my soul. Some days that’s easier than others. If the crew of people supporting me aren’t built for that walk, they shouldn’t be there. #Realtalk. Some people vibe well together, some don’t. It’s ok. Ignorant patriarchy is a b#tch though,
I could speak volumes…
-My standards are too high, and my process too idiosyncratic, not to work with people who really want to be there. When I don’t have that, I keep searching until I find them.
-I remix my songs live because I haven’t released an album in several years. There’s a ton of backstory as to why, but there’s no way I could continue to play the same songs over and over as long as I’ve been performing them without some variation and exploration. I’m not a robot. If I’d had additional music out, perhaps I would have kept them as they were. I didn’t, so I revise and rearrange them according to what I’m feeling in that moment. This way, my performances are heartfelt and authentic, not me just going through the motions. I can’t imagine why that would be a foreign concept to anyone who appreciates jazz.
-And the myth that I’m not allowed to play the original versions of my songs is…a myth (anyone who’s seen my current show knows this).
-There can also be an energetic or emotional transference when I perform, and it can be heavy/weighty at times. As an artist, I’m tasked with bringing a different vibration into the space that transcends this. Not an easy gig but an important one. I can imagine there are people who value this process and don’t mind waiting a little if it means experiencing something inspired.
-Me being late to shows isn’t because I don’t respect my fans or their time, but the contrary, It can be argued that I care too much, and insist on things being right. I like to switch my show up regularly, change arrangements, add new songs, etc. This often leads to long sound checks, which leads to doors opening late, which leads to the show getting a late start. This element of perfectionism is about wanting the audience to experience the very best and most authentic musical experience they can from what I do.
-I reject being pigeonholed or pinned down by someone else’s uninformed concept of me. I’m my own person, free to explore my potential like everyone else.
– Where I am in one chapter of my life isn’t necessarily where I’ll be in the next chapter. I reserve the right to be an honest artist in those moments and not a fabrication, fake or phony version of myself, because that’s what someone else likes.
-I don’t owe anyone self-repression. Some fans will grow with me, some won’t and that’s ok.
-Life is to be lived, it’s not a full-time performance you put on for others, so people won’t have bad things to say about you in interviews.
-Hip-hop was born through people who didn’t necessarily have traditional musical training, the best tools, and in some cases even instruments, but found a way to express themselves despite that. My art exists because it has a will to exist, like hip hop.
-The album inspired many people, from all walks of life, because of its radical(intense) will to live and to express Love. I appreciate everyone who was a part of it, in any and every capacity. It wouldn’t have existed the way that it did without the involvement, skill, hard work, and talents of the artists/musicians and technicians who were a part of it, but it still required my vision, my passion, my faith, my will, my soul, my heart, and my story.
What do you make of her essay?