She was one of the most popular voices of the ’90s, as the lead singer of The Fugees and then as a solo artist, but Lauryn Hill made a sudden, unexplained departure from the music industry for over a decade. Now, Hill is making tentative steps toward a comeback, including a few live concert dates and even some media interviews. The notoriously reclusive singer says the time off was largely dedicated to raising her five children and to taking care of herself after several years of touring, recording, and living a very high profile life.
Lauryn Hill is back — sort of.
Celebrated for her work with the Fugees and her classic solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” the Grammy-winning hip-hop/R&B artist has barely been seen or heard since 1999. (Despite universal accolades, she only released one album after 1998’s “Miseducation”: 2002’s “MTV Unplugged.”) Some wondered whether the erratic artist — who demands to be addressed as “Ms. Hill” — had a nervous breakdown.
But Hill, now 35, finally explained her mysterious absence to National Public Radio’s Zoe Chace, who scored a interview with the artist following a rare performance in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Why did she stop recording? “There were a number of different reasons,” she explains.
“But partly, the support system that I needed was not necessarily in place. There were things about myself, personal-growth things, that I had to go through in order to feel like it was worth it.”
The platinum-selling star also takes aim at the music industry, suggesting it didn’t nurture her with enough care or patience: “Oftentimes,” Hill says, “the machine can overlook the need to take care of the people who produce the sounds that have a lot to do with the health and well-being of society. … And it’s important that people be given the time that they need to go through, to grow, so that the consciousness level of the general public is properly affected.”
Not that Hill hasn’t kept herself busy the past 11 years.
“I don’t know if you know this, but I have five children,” she tells NPR. Her children’s dad is Hill’s longtime love, Rohan Marley, son of the late reggae legend Bob Marley.
“The youngest is 2 now, so she’s old enough that I can leave her for a period of time and know she’s going to be okay.”
“I think it’s just time,” to start performing again, she adds.
“I’m starting to get excited again. Believe it or not, I think what people are attracted to about me, if anything, is my passion. People got exposed to my passion through music and song first. … And I think that can be infectious.”
I would love to see Lauryn put out a new album- her unique R&B/soul voice would be a welcome breath of fresh air in the world of auto-tuned teen-bots. Hopefully, she is in a better place mentally than when she first hit the big time. She performed a few scattered concerts back in 2007 that were rough – her voice and demeanor were off. Maybe the time off has helped. I think the music industry is tough for people who don’t want to be “handled” by record executives and managers – and Lauryn has never been one to sit back and do what she’s told. But I say, welcome back!
Header: Lauryn performing with the Fugees in 2005.