When It Hurts So Bad ...
"I wish I could talk to Lauryn..I mean, excuse me Ms. Hill, and let her know how much we love her, it's real.."
If you follow Talib Kweli on Twitter, then you know he is rarely at a loss for words. Much like his music, his tweets are consistent in delivering his honesty, and serve as a direct reflection of him in living his truth. I've been a huge fan of his since the late nineties-early 2000's, mostly because I was always drawn to storytellers of his nature, who decided to design their own direction, and i admire the hard work required to pour your heart into creating something that makes the average listener want to stop what their doing and.....well.....LISTEN. So, whether you agree with him or not on politics or the aligning of the planets..at the very minimum, put some respeck on his name and his work and give credit where credit is due. In 2005, Kweli released a song entitled "Ms. Hill" , adding another classic love letter to hip-hop onto our playlists, but also presenting itself as an ode to defend the legacy and reputation of the one and only Miss Lauryn Hill. A reputation that has been brandished, to say the absolute very least. As Malcolm X recently re-reminded us "..The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman...", and while remembering that, its always beautiful to see a Black man come to a Black woman and say "I hear you. I'm with you. I understand. And I want to help you be a better you." in the way Kweli did with this record. In the same sense, we are also recently re-reminded of the many miseducations, misunderstandings, and misconceptions that still is Miss Lauryn Hill. Many have heard by now about the shenanigans at her most recent concert in Atlanta, Ga....she was late, SUPER late, and only performed for less than an hour in result to the venue closing early due to the neighborhood noise ordinance, as per her contact. Many concert goers were irate after receiving no refund and a half ass, half effort show. This subsequently comes on the heels of Beyoncé's concert in North Carolina for her Formation tour, which was delayed an hour because of weather. Mrs. Carter in turn paid a fine/fee of $1000 per minute ($65,000 to be exact) in order to extend her show for an hour to ensure that her fans got their money's worth. Boss moves like this is the exact reason why Beyonce' has her fans unapologetically creating entire savings accounts for her concert tickets, because basically we know it will be worth every single dime. But, the comparison raises many questions.. like, is this an artist issue? Or a location issue? Of course, it really depends on the venue and the details of the contract. Some counties have noise ordinances and some don't. Some contracts are stricter than others. And it also depends on whos fault it is that the show was even delayed to begin with. Or, an even more appropriate question could be whether this is even a fair comparison in the first place. I think we all know that even if the opportunity presented itself, Lauryn Hill doesn't have $65,000 to be shelling out for an extra hour of concert time. Beyoncé is just in a totally different bracket than most artists. And it doesn't help that we already know the cringe worthy details of Lauryn's financial burdens and tax debt, post-music industry, so if there's anything her consistent tardiness represents to me, its the transparency of HAVING to do this, and not wanting to, hence the lack of urgency to even show up on time. To be clear, in no way, shape, or form, is this an excuse for her antics, as much as it is a logical reason as to understand why its even happening. For some creatives, its extremely difficult to put on a mask every night, pour your soul out to complete strangers over and over again, and be forced to perform things that your heart may no longer resonate with, instead of being given avenues and opportunities to create new music, new product..........yes, art is timeless, but its not just about a song, its also about being constantly transported to a place that you have worked so hard to get away from, but you have to keep revisiting it for the sake of a dollar. Its about clarity. Its about sanity. Its about ownership of self. Its a daily tug of war within you, and not everyone makes it out okay: rest in power Amy Winehouse. She was just one of many who emotionally spiraled out of control at the hands of business execs, forcing her to consistently reenact the soundtrack to some of the most darkest moments of her life, making it extremely difficult to outgrow them, and keep writing, without eventually succumbing to the coping mechanisms of drugs and alcohol, like so many before her. People who view things as a bit more concrete don't understand how much of a blessing and a burden it is for an artist to carry the weight of knowing that some of their fans actually NEED their words. Like, they DEPEND on it. People look to musicians, actors, and writers, to deliver material to the masses in an effort to sustain as well as escape their reality, but no one is there when the artist themselves has to deal with harsh realities of their own. To those who might not cling as tight to their abstract side as others, this logic might sound a bit enabling. After all, some of us wake up everyday and put on a fake personality to go to a job that we hate, simply because we have bills to pay, just like Lauryn. And some people, feel that as fans who paid their hard earned money, they deserve, at the very minimum, a full length show. Fair enough. Ill let you have that. I cant tell anyone else how they should feel or what they should take from a particular encounter. I can only speak on behalf of my own observations.
"....You give us hope, you give us faith, you the one....they don't like what you got to say but still they beg you to come..."
My first Lauryn Hill concert was about 3 years ago. The show was sold out, and I bust my ass and resurrected all of my hookups to get those tickets. The show was scheduled to start at 9, and I was rushing to get there by atleast 8pm because, well....duh...its Lauryn fucking Hill............................welp, needless to say she was two hours late. Show didn't start till 11. It was a Wednesday night. People were leaving her show because they had to get up early the next morning and make it to their own jobs on time the next day....oh the irony, lol. I arrived at 7:45 and by the time she got on stage they were closing the curtains on her before she could finish saying "Doo-Wop". As a fan, I was pissed. I was angry. I felt ripped off. Taken advantage of...and on the way home, I listened to Talib Kweli's song, and tried my hardest to make sense of wtf just happened...my conclusion has remained the same ever since. Lauryn Hill is/was nothing short of a prophet. No matter what art form she was exhibiting...rapping, singing, poetry...her message was always larger than life. So to watch her carelessly live up to the expectations of something as simple as tardiness is overwhelmingly disheartening to those who still struggle to see her shine. However, I am all too familiar with the mentality behind the pain of pulling yourself together everyday to pretend to be someone that you're not, for the well being of others. Before "Sister Act 2" and before The Fugees, Kweli and Hill crossed paths years ago through common interests at Brooklyn's oldest bookstore/cultural center for education. "We used to chill at Nkiru, her moms was a customer, she used to like to buy the books by Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower, the main character's name was Lauren....what her album did for Black girls self esteem was so important." But, as we all know, you don't have to know someone personally in order for what they've done to have a significant impact on your life. The timing of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill couldn't have been more important to me. It was 1998, and I was a freshman in high school, discovering my way through this crazy thing called life as a growing black female teenager, and maneuvering myself through certain experiences for the first time ever. Don't get it twisted, my examples displaying the strength as well as the fragility of womanhood was set at a very early age by my mother whom I absolutely adore as my biggest teacher, but since then ive also learned how reflection and representation in the media and the arts is so extremely important to our youth. Everything.......is everything. After winter, must come spring. And so the cycle continues.....our parents may have had to endure some of the same experiences we did, so yes, they can help lead us directly...but every generation is different, and our parents didn't approach or have to endure those same experiences in the same manner that we did. And as a parent now myself, I get it. Social media is a perfect example of this transition. So as a misunderstood teenager, its important to have a healthy outlet you can connect with that helps to tell your story. That's what Lauryn Hill was for me. That's what TLC was for me. Women who exemplified the many struggles, images, voices, and facets of black femininity that I saw in myself. But when I saw Lauryn perform a couple years ago, it was more than obvious her heart wasn't in it. She was there, but she wasn't THERE. She was getting dressed, putting on her stage face, and showing up two hours late to perform, because she HAD to, not because she wanted to. And for the first time, she finally addressed her tardiness and released a statement explaining how the industry has taken its toll on her and how her now war torn spirit has affected her mentality and work ethic. People sucked their teeth and rolled their eyes as she blamed things like needing extra time to "align her chakras" for her consistent late arrival to her performances. But, you know what?? I don't even want an explanation. Maybe because I don't want another "Miseducation"...and I don't want another "Unplugged".....I just want her to use the space she needs to productively get herself together within herself first....then and only then will she ever be ready and open to share herself with those who have been here rooting for her the whole time.