Lauryn Hill started 1998 as one third of the best-selling hip-hop group the Fugees.
Though most young singer/songwriters would consider that to be enough of an
achievement, Hill worked hard throughout the year and began 1999 as one of the most
successful female solo acts in music.
Her career transformation began with the August 1998 release of The Miseducation
of Lauryn Hill, her first solo LP, which effectively fused Fugees-like hip-hop with funky
and highly spiritual R&B behind the confessional tales of the singer's life.
Lauryn Hill was born in East Orange, N.J., to an English-teacher mother and computer-consultant
father. She sang as a child and landed a role on the soap opera "As the
World Turns" as a teenager.
In high school Hill became friends with Pras Michael and the two formed the Fugees with
Michael's cousin, Haitian émigré Wyclef Jean. The cousins had
previously rapped together as Tranzlator Crew.
They chose the name Fugees, slang for refugees, and began laying down tracks in a
basement studio. In 1993 the Fugees signed with Ruffhouse/Columbia and soon
released their first album, Blunted on Reality (1994). The trio had a minor hit with
"Nappy Heads," which sampled '70s R&B acts such as Earth, Wind and Fire as well as
Kool and the Gang.
Hill took a break from the band to act in the movie "Sister Act II." But she was present for
the Fugees' second album, The Score (1996), which made the group a superstar
act. A remix by Sly & Robbie of the single "Fu-Gee-La" sold more than 500,000 units in
the U.S. and was also a UK hit. Even bigger was "Killing Me Softly," the Fugees' hip-hop
version of Roberta Flack's 1970s hit. It topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and
helped the album sell more than 5 million copies.
Though the Fugees were one of the hottest acts in music, rapper/producer/guitar player
Jean, who was romantically linked with Hill, got the bulk of the critical attention as the
driving force behind the group. In 1997, while Jean issued the solo Carnival, Hill
gave birth to a baby boy named Zion.
Last year, the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill propelled Hill's profile
into the stratosphere, and critical hosannas from such publications as the New York
Times and Rolling Stone surpassed even the praise Jean's album received.
The LP featured catchy rap songs such as the hit single
HREF="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Hill,_Lauryn/Doo_Wop.ram">"Doo Wop (That Thing)"
Wop (That Thing)"(RealAudio excerpt) and "Lost Ones"; and moving, Stevie
Wonder-esque soul on an ode to her son,
"To Zion" (RealAudio excerpt), which
she performed at the Grammy Awards.
The album soared to #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart on sales of more than
400,000 copies, more in one week than any female solo artist since 1991. Hill won five
Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, the first for a hip-hop album.
Miseducation has sold nearly 6 million copies.
Hill, who last year gave birth to a daughter, has completed a successful U.S. tour and
now is supporting the LP on a European jaunt. In the meantime, she continues her work
for the Refugee Project, a nonprofit organization she started in 1996.
Rapper RZA said: "What Lauryn is doing is opening doors for female artists who aren't
materialistic and flashing their t-----s. She represents a beauty and a wholesomeness
that's more down-to-earth. She makes music that people can relate to, which is why
she's done so well."
Other birthdays: Hal David, 78; Tom T. Hall, 63; Jessi Colter, 52; Klaus Meine
(Scorpions), 51; Robert Steinhardt (Kansas), 48; Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council),
41; Dat Nigga Daz, 26; and Miles Davis, 1926-1991.