The Real Inspiration Behind Lauryn Hill's "Miseducation"
Words: mater mea
One of the most influential albums of our times had a very special person powering it into existence.
Ask anyone who was alive and feeling feelings in the late '90s-early aughts what their favorite album was, and Lauryn Hill's "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" will inevitably top lists. The 1998 record and Hill's solo debut was an immediate hit: "The Miseducation" was nominated for 10 Grammys, won five (making it first rap album to win "Album of the Year"), sold more than 8 million copies, and was entered into the Library of Congress last year.
But for all the accolades Ms. Lauryn Hill acquired, the focus of many articles around the time was whether or not former Fugees' bandmate and lover Wyclef Jean was the inspiration behind Hill's magnum opus.
In a 1999 interview with The Chicago Tribune, Hill—then a 23-year-old mom of two—shares some incredible insight into the process of making the album. And the person who influenced the album's existence was her first-born son Zion. "Zion is my best critic," she said. "If he dances, it's going on the record. If not, it's out."
Many fans know that the song "To Zion" was a very personal telling of her decision to keep her baby despite advice to have an abortion as her solo career was about to take off. But many may not know just how much of an influence her then unborn son had on bringing the album to life. From the Chicago Tribune interview:
Photo credit: Brian B+ Cross
Zion was born in the middle of making this record. How did you handle it all?
I was very pregnant, and I should have been tired. But I had huge amount of energy instead. I had all these ideas and I'd be in the studio till 3 in the morning. I remember recording one vocal while I was flat on my back because I was so big I couldn't stand for long periods any more.
When you're pregnant, you're very emotional. I think that was a huge benefit in making this album. I wrote most of the songs prior to giving birth. The events in my life that became the basis for this album were unclear to me —I was in this cycle of disillusionment—but when I got pregnant, everything became very real and very clear and I was able to see everything that I had experienced for what it was. It's hard to tell a story when you're unsure how it's going to turn out, but after having my son, there was an ending to the story, an ending to a certain period of my life, and everything was very clear.