Has there ever been an artist with a career arc even remotely like Lauryn Hill's? She began as an iconic member of one of the most important and influential hip-hop groups of all time, broke out on her own with an absolutely stellar solo album that was one of the finest pieces of music released in the 1990s, then essentially took herself off the grid only to make an unusual comeback 10 years later. Hill's recent performances on the Rock the Bells tour have been gone over with a fine-toothed comb and talked about with giddy anticipation. That sort of excitement and analysis wouldn't happen if she wasn't responsible for the jaw-dropping The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which was released on this day in 1998.
Hot on the heels of the Fugees' chart-topping, multi-platinum, Grammy-winning, hit-making masterpiece The Score and coming just behind fellow Fugee Wyclef Jean's first solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was met with open minds and arms. While Wyclef's solo album The Carnival had a mostly festive vibe to it (that song with the Bee Gees sample set the general tone), Hill's solo debut was meant to be raw, thoughtful and hard-hitting. The lyrics were clear-eyed and on point, the music was simultaneously hard and soulful and Hill's voice worked wonders both as a vessel for rapping and a conduit for her singing. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill essentially gave birth to the genre now know as neo soul, which means you can trace the lineage of Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and dozens of others back to Hill's masterpiece.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is top-loaded with stellar instant-classics like the chart-topping single "Doo Wop (That Thing)," the scathing "Lost Ones" and the sweet "To Zion." But hiding at the end of the album is the brilliant, dazzling "Everything is Everything," which brings together all the elements of Hill's sound and distills them through one killer hook.