Ex-Fugee makes rare concert appearance Saturday, Jan. 29, in Atlantic City.
Most would agree that many performing artists (at least on TV) would rather be famous than actually be good at anything. Then you have performers and other people in the spotlight who are always desperately trying to extend their fame another 15 minutes. Hence you have actors, singers, people who are famous for being famous, getting arrested several times, releasing sex tapes, and doing anything — except helping their fellow man — to get noticed by TMZ.
Even in music, an industry about singing and songwriting, record companies won’t sign artists unless they can sell a back story worthy of American Idol or Entertainment Tonight.
Enter singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill, or should we say re-enter.
Hill returns to this new “monkey see-monkey do” world of mainstream music/media where musical performers are more disposable than when The Monkees were put together to get TV ratings and sell records. This Saturday, Jan. 29, after many years of not perfoming — anywhere — Hill brings her own blend of blues, hip-hop, and ground-breaking acoustic soul to the stage at The House of Blues at Showboat in Atlantic City.
The last time most of us saw Lauryn Hill, she was walking off stage holding her five Grammys for her first solo recording The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. Hill’s pile of hardware that night in 1999 (when Bob Dylan presented her with one of the Grammys) included awards for Best New Artist and Album of the Year.
After that night you would be hard pressed to find evidence that Hill ever cared about being famous anymore. In fact, any evidence of anything Hill has done outside of a recording booth has been hard to grasp. Do not be fooled into thinking Hill is famous for avoiding the spotlight. She may be the hardest photo to get, but once she’s on stage you can tell that she’s a natural talent who knows her craft.
Yes, Hill has a back story as juicy and colorful as any you’d read in People. As a member of New Jersey-based hip-hop act The Fugees, she helped ’90s hip-hop compete with, and some would say surpass, the hip-hop music of the ’80s. As a member of the Fugees and as a solo artist her contemporaries were Busta Rhymes, Tupac, and Notorious B.I.G. The Fugees remained a largely underground hip-hop group until Hill sang on the remake of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.”
The single elevated The Fugees to another level of fame. “Killing Me Softly,” off the 1996 album The Score, lead to the demand for Hill’s solo effort The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which dropped in 1998. I do not know which all-time best album lists include Miseducation, but I can say this: If you do not own a copy, go out and get one.
Ever since her memorable Grammy night in 1999, rumors have flown about affairs and a lot of other garbage that has nothing to do with the fact that Hill’s songs have inspired other priceless artists such as Jill Scott. Hill released the acoustic MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 in 2002 and inspired the Kanye West-Selena Johnson No. 1 hit record “All Falls Down.” Hill also shined beautifully with Joss Stone on the track “Music,” from Introducing Joss Stone.
We may never know how many tattoos she has or what is true about her life in all of the tabloid stories, but we do know she’ll be in Atlantic City for a very rare appearance on Saturday night. I will be at the House Blues for Lauryn Hill; not because I saw her fight off paparazzi, but because her songs have made and continue to make deep impressions on my life.
I remember where I was when I first heard “Killing Me Softly,” and I also think that “Doo Wop: That Thang” is still one of the most innovative music videos of all time.
See Hill at the House of Blues this Saturday because she’s an amazingly gifted talent. And unlike many of the more famous performers, you don’t see or hear Hill’s unique talent everyday.
Watch Lauryn Hill with Carlos Santana performing "Zion" live at the 1998 Grammy Awards:
Undeterred, Hill continued “re-working” her classics until nearly two in the morning....
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