Lauren Hill, The Miseducation of Lauren Hill (1997)
5.4 miles, 50 minutes
Conditions: 65 F, sunny, hungry, thirsty, and a little lost
I haven’t done one of these in a while, so I thought I’d check out one of the many, many albums I picked up on Record Store Day. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was one of my more confident purchases: Hill comes well-recommended, not the least by a certain admirer.
On the spectrum of rap to R&B, Hill errs on the side of downtempto blues on this one, with the drum machine being the vestigial hip-hop influence on some tracks. I’m not much of a modern R&B guy, but Hill’s rich vocals with gratuitous chorus and layering make a compelling argument. Frankly, I found the spoken tracks a bit less intriguing, though Hill is plenty competent spitting on the mic. The tracks that showcase both rap and a soul chorus are where everything comes together, and it becomes clear why this was the first hip-hop Best Album at the Grammies.
The beats on the album are interesting, though besides riffs from traditional instruments they don’t really stand out on their own. I suppose this was pretty standard for 90s hip-hop. Thinking back, though, I think a lot of recent tracks with this stellar grade of vocals can live off pretty minimal production.
I didn’t really like it as a running album; there’s pep on a few of the tracks, but, on average, they’re a lot slower and jazzier. I think the ideal activity for listening would be getting home from work and making a three-course meal from a recipe you haven’t tried before, then setting a table for yourself and a very special lady. It’s busy, well-cultured, cool and empowering, and overall, absolutely gorgeous.