Lauryn Hill

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)" (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.