Lauryn Hill. I have worshipped at the altar of this woman since she burst onto the scene with Pras and Wyclef Jean in tow as one part of the hip-hop group The Fugees. Who could resist the triple threat who could sing, rap and act? The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the album for which Ms. Hill won a record five Grammys, is still on heavy rotation at my house as is her MTV Unplugged 2.0 album. Her music is the soundtrack of my elementary and high school years and I have watched her grow, and implode, patiently and hopefully waiting for the moment of her rebirth. I got an opportunity to witness that on Saturday as Ms. Lauryn Hill took to the stage at the ONExONE fundraising concert at the Kool Haus.
Before Ms. Hill took the stage―on time I might add―Canadian hip-hop and R&B legends Kardinal Offishal, Solitaire, Maestro (Fresh Wes), K’Naan and Jully Black represented for the T Dot O in a performance for the ages.
And then Ms. Lauryn Hill took the stage.
The act of Ms. Hill starting her set seemed like more than just an artist hitting the stage. It seemed like the triumphant return of the Prodigal Son, as if she was spanning time from the MTV Unplugged era to present day, making amends and returning renewed. Ms. Hill began her performance standing off-stage as she launched into a rock-R&B fusion rendition of Killing Me Softly (how apt). She strode onto the stage as the song began to climax and it was clear that Lauryn Hill was on her way back. What followed was an evolutionary presentation of her well-worn hits. Modern classics like ‘Ex-Factor’, ‘Everything Is Everything’, ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’, ‘Fugee-La’, ‘How Many Mics’, ‘Lost Ones’, ‘If I Ruled the World’ and ‘To Zion’ all received updates. Gone were encoded renditions of hits that only she and her band seemed to recognize and in their place was growth, maturation and compromise. Her voice was like mahogany―rich, smooth, deep and melodic―as she seduced, serenaded and uplifted the crowd. She was commanding, in control (so much so that she occasionally gave directions to the band and backup singers mid-song) and healed. Gone were the multi-layered, covered looks that she had become fond of and in their place was a sheer mini dress with embellished shoulders and knee-high Christian Louboutin Interlopa suede fringe boots.
Near the end of her performance her children came on stage and her son Joshua even dropped a rhyme for the crowd (“The youngest Marley riding the beat like a Harley,” the proud momma said).
I’ve seen many great musicians perform in my life including Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Prince and Beres Hammond and I consider myself lucky to be able to witness such mastery. On Saturday night, Lady Luck graced me with her presence again and allowed me to witness the re-education and resurrection of Lauryn Hill.
And the saga continues….