Today's throwback album review, we go back to 1998 to look at Lauryn Hill's one and only solo studio album 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill'. Despite having only one album, Lauryn Hill is considered by many the best female hip-hop artist of all time - which really shows how good this album is perceived, so, it's time to see how it has stood the test of time.
The production on here is very good and suits Lauryn's style perfectly. The key elements are boom bap drums, groovy, jazzy and even funky atmospheres, shown straight from the get go with 'Lost Ones' which has this very reggae, groovy boom bap beat as she aims the song at her ex stating she's doing great and it's his loss. Lauryn's verses are full of religious references, imagery, confident punchlines and partner that with a great flow you get a really bouncy, catchy track. Guitar bass' that create a nice melody as well as brass instrumentation is prevalent as well throughout which always sounds good, such as on 'To Zion' which has these relaxing guitar strings combined with these great boom bap drums as she tells the story of her pregnancy including doubts of keeping the baby but giving birth and loving her child - she does this with some good storytelling, "I knew his life deserved a chance // But everybody told me to be smart // "Look at your career," they said // "Lauryn, baby use your head" // But instead I chose to use my heart". It’s a good song, however the verses are just a bit too slow moving at times and her vocal performance during verses wasn't top tier – I still enjoy the song. 'Can't Take My Eyes Off of You' has this deep bass guitar, catchy drum pattern and a really seductive synth line as she talks on the boy she loves being too good to be true with really soppy, loved up lyrics. It's a beautifully sung song and really full of life and catchy. To put it simply, the production is solid from start to finish.
Lauryn's lyrics are very thoughtful, powerful and poetic on this album, such as on 'Superstar', "Now, who you know without any flaws? // That lives above the spiritual laws? // And does anything they feel just because // There's always someone there who'll applaud?", as she makes great points throughout about how fame effects music quality and how although everybody is gassing you up - they'll come for you one day. The laid back, slow paced guitar strings are nice and it's a very lowkey track - not one of the best on here but a great song with a nice hook. Her punchlines and wordplay are so confident as well when she plays around with that side of rap, such as on 'Doo Wop (That Thing)', "Don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem", "Let it sit inside your head like a million women in Philly, Penn", as she bases the song around women who are only after a mans money not needing to sexualise themselves and men who are only after sex from a girl who focus on flexing wealth more than attracting a female long term. The drum pattern and horns are so catchy as well as the piano/pizzicato strings which sound great - the hook is amazing, the whole song is so smooth and catchy and it's evident why this was a hit, the best song on here in my opinion. She makes what she's saying vivid with her religious imagery, and truly uses her words in a perfect way. 'Everything is Everything' see's some complex lines, great vivid metaphors, punchlines and a truly special 2nd verse from Lauryn, "You can't match this rapper slash actress // More powerful than two Cleopatras // Bomb graffiti on the tomb of Nefertiti (Ooh, uh) // MCs ain't ready to take it to the Serengeti // My rhymes is heavy like the mind of sister Betty (EL Shabazz!)", over these sharp piano keys and catchy boom bap pattern to claim how powerful she is in the rap game - the main theme being everything happens for a reason. The beat is so catchy, the hook is as well despite being so simplistic and it's just an amazing song with great rapping and effortless vocals. Her flow is great when she spits and she has a great verse for R&B giving a proper classic feel to the album, as well as great vocals and a confident delivery.
The main theme of the album is love - most noticeably breakups and looking for true romance, such as on 'Ex-Factor' which is about her ex and how despite the breakup no one will love them like the other - it's a toxic relationship but both needed the other to stay. The light twinkling bells, slow guitar bass and drum pattern create a relaxed atmosphere as Lauryn's vocals are luscious, the melodies are golden and it's a really catchy, great song - the interlude as well (the one you may know for being sample in 'Nice For What' by Drake) I could just play on repeat for days as well as that guitar solo - a great song. The title track, 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill' is about finding yourself and reaching your goals, and it's performed over this piano instrumental. The whole nature of this track is beautiful - the live instrumentation gives Lauryn so much room to move and my God does she do well - she shows her naturally gifted singing voice and sings a soulful ballad and also makes one of the best songs she's ever made. She also talks on some social issues here, such as racial injustices in America, like on 'Final Hour' as she does this with some slick lines planted throughout with a great rhyme scheme and religious references, "And then amend it, every law that ever prevented // Our survival since our arrival documented in The Bible // Like Moses and Aaron, things gon' change, it's apparent". The main theme of the song is how you can focus on getting money and fame - but at the end of day Lauryn's legacy and skill will grant her longevity (it may also refer to getting into Heaven). The trumpets and boom bap beat is decent and it's another groovy track with great rapping and another really good song. The main theme is backed by the skits around a teacher talking to his class about love - and her experiences and thoughts around it are metaphorically vented through these skits.
Other tracks to look at include 'When It Hurts so Bad' which is about trying to salvage a sour relationship because you truly love them, and she uses some honest and heavy lines throughout with a poetic edge to it, "I loved real, real hard once // But the love wasn't returned // Found out the man I'd die for // He wasn't even concerned". The slow paced, laid back beat with slow drums and horns sounds great partnered with the deep guitar bass, the head bobbing beat and vocal performance from Lauryn are great but the tracks a bit too stripped back. It's definitely a good song, but it isn't as enticing as the other tracks. 'I Used to Love Him' is about reflecting back on a past relationship which caused pain and joy, as Mary J. Blige provided some poetic and metaphoric lyrics and great vocals over these vocal samples in the beat which create the desperate atmosphere as the bass and drums are amazing. This is more like it, a punch in the production instead of being too stripped back which it is occasionally the case - the great vocal performances from both artists and great chemistry between them come together for a really good song. 'Forgive Them Father' is about backstabbers and fake people (possibly related to an ex) and being the bigger person by asking God to forgive them. It's performed with some decent punchlines and verses over this guitar bass melody and jazz influenced beat which sounds great. Shelley Thunder's verse is great, the Jamaican melody clashes with the beat perfectly and Lauryn's melodies are really nice as per usual, the rapping is great and it's another solid song.
'Every Ghetto, Every City' is a song dedicated to her hometown South Orange in New Jersey as she reminisces of growing up over this funk inspired beat with catchy claps. The lyrics weren't as vivid as they should've been, but other than that it's a really bouncy, catchy song with a great beat and vocals - the imagery could've been stronger but it's a really good song. 'Nothing Even Matters' is about how nothing in the world matters as long as your lover is by you, and it's performed over this very groovy, lowkey and heavenly instrumental. D'Angelo's vocals are so smooth despite the very nursery rhyme like lyrics, but this may be the only song I don't find good but rather mediocre - the vocals of course from both are great but that doesn't mean they're interesting, plus the repetitive nature of each verse means it gets stale very quickly. 'Tell Him' is the finale here and is about loving someone but due to all the biblical references littered in here it may refer to Jesus. The guitar melody, drums and the whole atmosphere is great as well as them layered choir vocals adding great effect to the chorus. It's such a nice sounding song as she put her heart into this - the 2nd half of this album (bar 1 track) is perfect and this is a beautiful closer.
To conclude, this album showcases great artistry and versatility with elements of pop, soul, R&B and hip hop here. Her vocals are gorgeous and she just makes every beat her own with her presence and great song writing ability. The production, content, voice, lyrics - it's all strong, and she has a real punch behind her delivery and can make a groovy track or even a ballad when she wants - it's just to put simply, really good sounding music. The classroom skits on here reinforce the theme of the project which is love, and while not all are needed it's definitely a nice edition. This album definitely stood the test of time, it's an influential album and it's sad it was Lauryn's only solo album because it would've been a great album to build off.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Lost Ones, Ex-Factor, Doo Wop (That Thing), Final Hour, I Used to Love Him, Forgive Them Father, Every Ghetto, Every City, Everything is Everything, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, Tell Him
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Nothing Even Matters
OVERALL RATING: Solid 9/10