Lauryn Hill Claps Back at Haters Amid 20th Anniversary of Miseducation Album
There’s a lot of miseducation out there and Lauryn Hill wants to set the record straight.
In a new open letter posted to the online publishing platform Medium, the 5-time Grammy-winning singer, 43, is speaking out against years of rumors while taking on disgruntled former employee, musician Robert Glasper. Hill’s words come on the heels of the recent 20th anniversary of her hit album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
“I’ve remained patient and quiet for a very long time, allowing people to talk, speculate, and project, while keeping my nose to the grindstone fighting for freedoms many folks aren’t even aware matter,” Hill says opening her 2700-word essay. She continues, “People can sometimes confuse kindness for weakness, and silence for weakness as well. When this happens, I have to speak up.”
Hill, who hasn’t given an interview in over a decade, writes that she’s breaking her silence in response to a recent radio interview given by Grammy-winning producer and pianist Robert Glasper. In the interview with Houston’s 97.9 The Box, Glasper, who briefly joined Hill’s band for a 2008 show, accuses Hill of stealing music for Miseducation, cutting her band’s pay in half on a whim and demanding everyone call her “Ms. Hill” and that no one look her in the eye.
“I have come across the occasional musician who thinks they already know what I want,” she writes in her response. “I am never trying to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings btw, but when people insist that they know you and don’t, you may have to be equally as firm to demonstrate otherwise.”
When it comes to Glasper’s claims about what she expects from her employees, “I have my own idea of what works for me. That shouldn’t offend,” she writes, adding, “I never told anyone not to look me in the eye, that may have been something someone said assuming what I wanted.”
Hill does admit to demanding a certain level of respect. “And yes,” she writes. “‘Ms. Hill’ was absolutely a requirement. I was young, Black and female. Not everyone can work for and give the appropriate respect to a person in that package and in charge. It was important.”
As for Glasper calling her talent into question, “Who are you to say I didn’t do enough?” she poses. “Most people are probably just hearing your name for the first time because you dropped MINE in an interview…The Miseducation was my only solo studio album, but it certainly wasn’t the only good thing I did.”
Her words come amidst a huge milestone for the star’s hit album. But she’s been through a lot since its 1998 release. Around the year 2000, Hill famously left the public eye due to the pressures of fame. During promotion for her live album MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 she received mixed reviews from audiences after showing up late or canceling performances. In 2012 she pled guilty to tax evasion, later serving a short time in jail on the charges.
Hill writes that the period Glasper refers to was a time of personal and professional upheaval. After addressing him head on, she turns to a number of common perceptions of her and her work.
In response to the claim that she stole her music, and the widely held assumption that she is not able to perform the original renditions of her hits from Miseducation for legal reasons, she says that’s just not true.
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“The myth that I’m not allowed to play the original versions of my songs is…a myth (anyone who’s seen my current show knows this),” she writes, adding that “I remix my songs live because I haven’t released an album in several years. There’s a ton of backstory as to why, but there’s no way I could continue to play the same songs over and over as long as I’ve been performing them without some variation and exploration. I’m not a robot.”
Another rumor she wants to shut down: “I do not hate white people,” she writes. “I do, however, despise a system of entitlement and oppression set up to exploit people who are different…My true white friends and colleagues and I discuss these schemes and machinations, and the distrust that people of color would naturally have toward such a system and towards those who agree with it.”
In all, Hill says she stands proud of her accomplishments, as an artist, an activist—and a mom. “Let’s not forget that I am a mother of 6,” she writes of kids Sarah, Selah, Joshua, John and Zion with ex Rohan Marley, along with son Micah Hill. She adds her song “Zion” “gave encouragement to women during challenging pregnancies.”
“Show me an artist working now who hasn’t been directly influenced by the work I put in, and I’ll show you an artist who’s been influenced by an artist who was directly influenced by the work that I put in,” she says in arguably the most mic drop-able moment of the essay.
“I was and continue to be a door opener, even if the blind don’t see it, and the prideful are too proud to admit it. I lived this, you watched this and heard about it.”