In a rare interview, the famously private singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill recalls the recording industry's opposition to her making her first and only studio album, 1998's iconic "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," and the personal price she paid for her outspoken record.
"When I decided I wanted to try a solo project, I was met with incredible resistance and discouragement from a number of places that should have been supportive," the former Fugees vocalist, 45, said Tuesday in a Rolling Stone magazine podcast, in which her emailed responses to questions were read aloud by an actress. "So that [was] a motivating factor. But it was less about proving myself and more about creating something I wanted to see and hear in this world."
"The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" went on to sell 2 million albums within a month of its August 1998 release, and won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best R&B Album — among the five Hill took that year, including for Best New Artist. The socially conscious album eventually sold more than 8 million copies, and cuts continue to be sampled by the likes of Drake and Cardi B.
Despite such critical and commercial success, says Hill, "The wild thing is that no one from my label ever called me and asked me how we can we help you make another album. Ever. Ever. Did I say ever? Ever. … After 'The Miseducation,' there were scores of tentacled obstructionists, politics, repressing agendas, unrealistic expectations and saboteurs everywhere. People had included me in their own narratives of their successes as it pertained to my album, and if this contradicted my experience, I was considered an enemy. Artist suppression is definitely a thing. … [W]here there should have been overwhelming support, there wasn't any."
Hill — who has released only one other solo album, the acoustic, live "MTV Unplugged No. 2.0" in 2002 — remains a touring artist, doing a Feb. 15, 2020, concert at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, whose audience she praised on Instagram two days later. "Westbury, NY, your energy was magical! Thank you!" she wrote, posting four photos from the show.
Saying in the podcast interview that she still works to overcome "the trauma, stifling and stunting" that she experienced in the aftermath of "The Miseducation," Hill says she has no regrets "because I ended up with a clarity I might not have been able to achieve any other way. I would have done a few things differently if I could go back. … I would have rejected the manipulation, unfair force and pressure put on me much earlier. I would have benefited from having more awareness of the dangers of fame. … I would have demanded what I needed and removed people antagonistic to that sooner than I did."