By Robert Lee Mitchell III
Lauryn Hill recently pleaded guilty to tax evasion last June. She claimed she didn’t pay her taxes because she went “underground.” Let’s take a look back at the woman who changed a generation.
In 1998, Hill’s solo debut album was released to critical acclaim. To date, the album has sold over 19 million copies and was nominated for 10 Grammys of which Hill took home 5 in 1999. This feat is remarkable because Hill, a young black woman, was an unwed mother. In an era when black women were seen as video vixens or welfare queens, Hill showed us that despite the negative tropes, a black mother’s love could endure society’s attacks. Instead of hanging her head in shame and apologizing for Zion’s conception, Hill sung a love letter to him. In the song “To Zion,” Hill pushes back against the salient advice her peers gave her in a poetically aggressive way:
“Woe this crazy circumstance / I knew his life deserved a chance / But everybody told me to be smart. / ‘Look at your career,’ they said. / ‘Lauryn, baby, use your head.’ / But instead I chose to use my heart.”
Lauryn Hill was special. She was an actress, a singer, a songwriter, and even a rapper. Her voice, a voice that only pain and experience can give one, told the story that so many of us were living to hear. Love was exceptional, love was rare, love was fleeting, and love was worth the chase.