Meeting Lauryn Hill


By Shaheem Reid

The two biggest questions everyone's been asking since my Lauryn Hill interview following her Rock the Bells performance Saturday are: "How did it happen?" and "How was she?”

How was she? How was I should be the question. Cloud nine isn't high enough to describe how I felt afterward, just knowing and feeling what she meant to music — what she still means to music. I was honored for the opportunity. After the interview, I even wrote on Twitter (@shaheemreid) that I could retire now, but I won’t.

I don't think I’ve seen a Lauryn interview with anyone since about 2001, when the big homie Sway sat down with her right after the taping of her "MTV Unplugged."

Hill has done most of her talking since then onstage, in front of audiences during sporadic concerts over the years. A chance to speak with "L. Boogie," as we used to call her in the '90s, was big for me. It's huge for the culture as well. One of our all-time legends is ready to express herself, convey thoughts to the fans who have supported her for 15-plus years. I couldn’t pass this up.

Probably about an hour after she got off the stage at Rock the Bells, I get the call on my BlackBerry from someone very close to her that she was ready to talk. It was out of the blue, which made the moment all the more amazing. We went to her trailer, and it was refreshing to see her kids and a bunch of other children as well just enjoying life. They still have that innocence, even though their mom has been so influential to a generation. The youngsters were treated to a special visit from Busta Rhymes, who came by to say hello and compliment one of the boys who had rapped for him earlier in the day. I caught a glimpse of Lauryn's daughter, who looks exactly like her. The moment started getting surreal.

I had my MTV News crew with me, Steven Roberts on the camera and talent director Whitney Benta, along with friend of our family Angela Patterson, who came to the show just as a fan. I felt it was a huge compliment that Lauryn would be wiling to talk to us after being media-silent for so long.

Inside the trailer, it was very calm, relaxing and reassuring. Lauryn was very welcoming. She sat on the couch, and right before we talked, one of her sons came to the door to ask a question. We all laughed how kids don't care if you're about to interview with MTV or whoever. Which they shouldn't — family first.

I told Lauryn how we were at the Rock the Bells kickoff in San Bernardino and that Rakim told us that, out of everybody, he was there to see her. She seemed very humbled. During our brief talk, she remained humble and cool. She still had a very natural, regal aura, but it was perfectly balanced with a down-to-earth coolness. While she didn't give anything away about her new music (beside the fact that it's coming soon), she seems like she has a lot more to say. She seemed very much in tune with the music that's going on today. Although it is quite a different climate from when The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill dropped, she was far from a veteran that was coming with the “back in my day” talk. Lauryn said it's fine for it to be different.

Earlier in the day, she brought Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Chris Rock and Mary J. Blige onstage, and for a split second, when she was recollecting the moment, it seemed like her eyes were starting to water. But we went on to have a few more great moments together and even took a photo afterward. Lauryn was very gracious with her time.

Were you at the concert? Did you see Ms. Hill perform? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!