The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: Modern Gospel to a Preacher's Son

Her words are still echoed like scripture

To my eyes, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is like a fine hand-crafted sculpture. It embraces and unmasks both beauty and blemishes that we have all experienced regardless of our race, religion or cultural backgrounds. The entire album is a resounding message citing the ups and downs of life through actuality. While reflecting on this work, I cannot help but hinge unto the title that I find to be a paradox. Through the vibrations of the sounds and the wonderful display of vocals, you begin to not only hear but also feel the actual education of the "miseducation" that Lauryn is giving to us. 

She presents her beauty to us with her cover art while uniquely placing herself in the position of humility, displaying a wooden pencil above her head as though she were the student awaiting the lesson. The observation of her art and sound taught me that impact and change often come from people who sit in the lowest seats, like a classroom desk. It is the people who often have the least to say that are most impactful. In the introduction, she was called upon by her teacher but gave no answer. Instead, her lyrics were what made her present; to this day, her words are still echoed like scripture. 

As a young preacher's kid, I stumbled across Lauryn Hill watching a movie with my mother called Sister Act. Looking back, I can remember Lauryn standing around a piano singing "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." It was in that moment that I realized how much I loved her voice. Growing up in a strict household, both my parents allowed me to wander into my musical expression as I pleased, apart from foul language and perverted lyrics. Overall, hearing Lauryn sing a gospel song helped me ease into her album, as my parents did not know much about her secular music. While being the preacher's kid, this album still felt familiar. Lyrically I heard religious references that almost made the music feel like some modern gospel. I heard lines that would have made the church say amen.

Although I cannot identify one song as my favorite on the album, "To Zion" is the one that always stuck with me. It became more personal to me when I thought  about writing my own song "It's OK to Be Black" for my daughter. I opened my heart to pen my daughter a letter of encouragement and to drop a seed into her confidence that allows her to know she is loved the way she is. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill taught me that the things we want to tuck away are the very things we should display and give graciously. Lauryn Hill did not just make an album; she made a movement.

First Note is a Muse series about the transformative power of music and the artists, songs and albums that most influenced us. If you'd like to write for First Note, please get in touch.

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Jac Ross
Jac Ross is an R&B artist signed to Darkchild Records/Island Records. Earlier this year he released a powerful, soul-stirring single, "It's OK to Be Black."

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