Killing Me Softly
“I want my music to touch real people. I’m still trying to figure myself out, like most people.... because I’m still living and learning.” Lauryn Hill
A highly acclaimed hip-hop singer, songwriter and producer, Lauryn Hill rocked the hip-hop tradition when she and her mates in The Fugees, Prakazrel Michel and Wyclef Jean, released the popular recycle of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” (1996). The single and its album, The Score, won two Grammy Awards and became a multi-platinum album. After the group’s separation, Hill made her solo debut with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), in which she also served as a songwriter and producer. Her genius effort for the multi-platinum album garnered her five Grammy Awards and five Grammy nominations in one night. Her next solo album, MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002), became a platinum hit.
A multi-talented performer, Hill also branched out to acting. She made appearances in the soap opera “As the World Turns” (1991) and the TV series “Here and Now” (1992). She was also seen in such films as the Steven Soderbergh’s drama King of the Hill (1993), the comedy Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), Daddy’s Girl (1996, TV), the low-budget comedy Hav Plenty (1997), Restaurant (1998) and Turn It Up (2000, as Leslie). Outside the spotlight, Hill, whose dreadlocks and husky voice became a trademark, is known as a humanitarian. In 1996, she founded The Refugee Camp Youth Project, a nonprofit organization that supports a two-week camp for at-risk youth, well-building projects in Kenya and Uganda, as well as a rap concert in Harlem to promote voter registration. For her efforts, Hill received an Essence Award in 1996. One of 1999’s Ebony magazine’s “100+ Most Influential Black Americans,” in 2003, Hill referred to Catholic officials as committing “corruption, exploitation and abuses” after a boys’ molestation by Catholic officials and the suppression of the offenses by Catholic Church officials.
As for her romantic life, Hill, who now prefers to be called “Ms. Hill,” was once romantically involved with her band mate Wyclef Jean. She is now the wife of Rohan Marley, son of the late Bob Marley, with whom she raises three sons and a daughter.
Childhood and Family:
The daughter of Valerie Hill (English teacher) and Mal Hill (computer consultant), Lauryn Hill was born on May 25, 1975, in South Orange, New Jersey. Lauryn’s knack for performing, which became apparent at an early age, received full support from her parents and her only brother, Melaney Hill. When she was nine years old, Lauryn’s parents encouraged her to demonstrate her singing skill in front of Stevie Wonder, who had been spotted by the family in a restaurant.
Lauryn, who received the nickname “L-Boogie,” studied at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. While still concentrating on her education, the smart L-Boogie also wrote poetry, as well as joined the school’s track team, basketball team, cheerleading squad and school choir. It was here where her popular music group, The Fugees, was born. After graduation, L-Boogie continued her studies and took History programs at the prestigious Columbia University in New York. She quit a year later to focus on her music career.
As for her private life, Lauryn is the wife of Rohan Marley, the son of the late reggae artist Bob Marley. From the marriage, the couple has three sons, Zion David Marley (born on August 3, 1997), Joshua (born on January 2002) and John (born in summer 2003), as well as a daughter named Selah Louise (born November 12, 1998)
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill had her first experience on stage at the age of thirteen when she performed on “Amateur Night” at the “Showtime at the Apollo” (1987), singing Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Loving You?” Although she did not win the competition, Hill was determined that singing was her true calling. In 1988, Hill was invited by Prakazrel “Pras” Michel to join his musical group, along with Wyclef Jean. It was called Tranzlator Crew, but the name was later changed to The Refugee Camp/ The Fugees.
Amid her studies and stints with The Fugees, Hill also branched out to acting and had her off-Broadway debut in a small show in 1989. Her acting was noticed by the creators of the TV soap opera “As the World Turns” (1991), who then cast her in the small recurring role of troubled Kira Johnson. Following her appearance in an episode of the TV series “Here and Now” (1992), Hill made her movie debut by landing a small role as elevator operator Arletta in Steven Soderbergh’s drama King of the Hill (1993), where she shared the screen with Adrien Brody. The same year, she was featured and sang her version of “Joyful, Joyful” and “His Eye is on the Sparrow” in the musical comedy Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, starring Whoopi Goldberg.
During her first year in college, Hill and her band The Fugees released their debut album titled Blunted on Reality (1994), with the singles “Nappy Heads” and “Vocab.” Although the album did not meet the sales target, the confident Hill saw prospect in the group and dropped out of college to focus on The Fugees. After two years of hard work, her prediction proved accurate when The Fugees’ sophomore album titled The Score (1996) became a phenomenal hit. Spawning the recycled single of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” the album won two Grammys for Best Rap Album and Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group. Hill’s husky voice and the urban flavor of recycled songs made the album sales exceed 17 million units, making it a multi-platinum album. While working with the group, Hill returned to the small screen and starred as Malika in the made-for-TV drama Daddy’s Girl (1996). She also appeared on the wide screen in the low-budget comedy Hav Plenty (1997, played Debra) and in Eric Bross’ drama Restaurant (1998, as Leslie).
“Hey, it’s my album! Who else can tell my story better than me?” Lauryn Hill, about The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Leaving The Fugees in 1998, Hill made a name for herself as a gifted solo hip-hop singer, songwriter and producer with her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which was a big critical and commercial success. With the hit single “Doo Wop (That Thing),” the album topped the US and UK charts and became a multi-platinum seller with its sales mounting to 16 million copies. Furthermore, she took home five Grammys out of ten nominations, a triumph that broke the record of singer/songwriter Carole King, who in 1971 won four Grammys. The album also won her a NAACP, a Soul Train, a Billboard and a Rolling Stone Music award. As a creative composer, Hill wrote and produced hit songs for Aretha Franklin and CeCe Winans. In between her solid music career, Hill appeared in the big screen action drama Turn It Up (2000).
After taking a break, Hill launched her second solo album, MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, on May 7, 2002. The album was a two-CD set of live recordings from the July 2001 session of MTV Unplugged. Different from her previous album, she sang with only an acoustic guitar and told her life stories amid the songs. Although some said that the album was uneven, the album went platinum. About the controversy, Lauryn Hill remarked, “Fantasy is what people want, but reality is what they need. I’ve just retired from the fantasy part.”
Following the release of Fugees - Greatest Hits (2003), Hill and her band mates were reunited and performed on September 18, 2004, at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as well as BET’s 2005 Music Awards. Along with their European tour in November-December 2005 and Hollywood’s “Reunion Concert” on February 6, 2006, Hill and her group reportedly joined up again by making a reunion album. One of its tracks, “Take It Easy,” was launched on the Internet on September 27, 2005, and climbed to the 40th hit on the Billboard R&B Chart. The Fugees has also released two other singles, “Foxy” and “Wannabe.”
As for her solo career, on October 9, 2005, she wrapped up an unofficial project titled Khulami Phase. Hill, who made a solo performance on the MOBO Awards 2005, is reportedly working on an LP. It will include the Grammy-nominated single “So High” (2005), featuring John Legend. Hill has also established a film production company and conveyed her interest in creating black science-fiction films.