She composed for the legendary Aretha Franklin.
Beyoncé called her "one of the best rappers ever."
And OutKast even opened for her.
We're talking about no one other than Ms. Lauryn Hill.
Her talent is undeniable.
Rolling Stone named her one of the greatest singers of all time, and Time Magazine dubbed her the "Queen of Hip Hop."
But she only released one studio album, so how did she accomplish so much?
This is Ms. Lauryn Hill's story and how she became one of the most celebrated, influential, and respected artists in music history.
First, let's go way back to before she became a music icon and a household name.
In 1987, L. Boogie performed at the famous live show Amateur Night at the Apollo ... and was boo'd.
At the tender age of 13, the songbird performed The Jackson 5's "Who's Loving You" in front of a crowd, notoriously known for being relentless critics.
But as she continued to sing, the crowd eventually came around and clapped for the singer in the end, not knowing that they had just witnessed the beginning of history.
Three years later, Ms. Hill would make another public appearance as a background dancer in the music video for "Poor Georgie" by MC Lyte.
But she wouldn't stay in the background for long.
The scene is Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Prakazrel Michel, known as "Pras," approaches Ms. Hill about joining a group.
He would later introduce her to Wyclef Jean, and together they became to be known as the Fugees.
As they worked on their debut album Ms. Hill continued her acting career...
Which led to her getting cast as Rita Louise Watson in Sister Act 2 alongside Whoopi Goldberg.
The film served as a breakout film for Ms. Hill, who also contributed to the soundtrack.
In 1994, the Fugees dropped their first album, Blunted on Reality.
The New York Times said the album "concocts brash, smart raps, drawing on Jamaican dance hall rhythms as well as American hip-hop."
And Ms. Hill was a standout.
She showed the ability to switch between being a hard-hitting rapper like Ice Cube... ...to being effortlessly jazzy with her delivery.
But it wasn't until their sophomore album, The Score, was released that the Fugees reached new levels of success.
In The Score, they found their own unique voice.
Pras and Wyclef leaned more into their Caribbean heritage (Fugees is short for Refugees, after all) and Ms. Hill brought more of her bluesy inspiration.
L. Boogie's soulful talent is on full display in their chilling hit single, "Ready or Not."
Ms. Hill lays her heart bare, with emotional vocals and even cried while recording, before delivering one of her most popular lines...
But it was Ms. Hill's cover of "Killing Me Softly with His Song," that ended up being the most popular single from the album.
In the middle of the hard-hitting 15-track rap album, Ms. Hill brought new life to the '70s song.
With a sample from A Tribe Called Quest... ... the track's hip-hop production matched with Ms. Hill's raspy-yet-smooth voice and made this song an instant classic.
Just listen to this run...
The Score went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, making Ms. Hill the first woman to win a Grammy in that category.
A love triangle and creative and financial disagreements - made it hard for the Fugees to continue forward as a group.
After Ms. Hill and Wyclef Jean ended their tumultuous relationship, the Fugees broke up, and Ms. Hill went solo.
An early-20-something year old Ms. Hill, started crafting the early parts of an album in her living room in her hometown South Orange, New Jersey.
Her label reportedly wanted her to release another album with the Fugees, but Ms. Hill forged ahead by recruiting her own team to help her achieve her vision.
She told Rolling Stone, "[I wanted to] write songs that lyrically move me and have the integrity of reggae and the knock of hip-hop and the instrumentation of classic soul."
Between label pressure to wrap up the album, naysayers, filming the movie Restaurant, and giving birth to her son, Zion, she got it done.
For her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she drew from her personal experience to create a raw, emotional cross-genre album that explored themes of love, Black empowerment, social justice, femininity, motherhood, and more.
She lays out all of her emotions on the album.
In the soulful ballad "Ex-Factor" she mourns her relationship with Wyclef Jean...
In "Ex-Factor," although she's singing, her voice bounces on top of the beat in a way that embodies a rap flow.
This sound would also help pave the way for neo-soul music alongside the artistry of Erykah Badu, Floetry, and Jill Scott.
You can hear Ms. Hill's Motown soul influence in songs like Doo Wop (That Thing) The track's hook and riff samples the soul band the 5th Dimension.
In Doo Wop, Ms. Hill also showcases her lyrical flare, proving why Miseducation is seen as one of the best rap albums...
The album is also influenced by Jamaican dancehall as well as the philosophy and sounds of reggae.
Half of the album was recorded at Bob Marley's Studio in Jamaica, and at the time she was in a relationship with Marley's son Rohan.
In the track "Lost Ones" Ms. Hill's vocals call back to Sister Nancy's hit dancehall record, "Bam Bam" To learn more about the influence of the Miseducation, I sat down with Nadirah, The founder of The Gumbo, a magazine that celebrates Black women in Hip Hop.
I think one thing that we don't talk about a lot, though, at least I love to talk about, is the blues.
...The influence of blues artists in her music.
And I think if you're hearing the call and response and old blues songs and you're hearing Lauryn sing and you're hearing them respond with chants and stuff like that and shouting, especially on songs like To Zion, it's just so prevalent and it's so obvious there.
... And when it comes to women and blues and how they were using, if you think about Ma Rainey, you think about Bessie Smith, they were using the blues to talk about, you know, love and relationship issues and family and heartbreak and all these different things that weren't really being done in that way in music.
And I think that's what makes it such a great body of work, is that she is taking all of these things and taking all these influences and really making them her own and just nodding to all these different parts of the music that we have.
Now let's talk stats.
The album, which is her only solo album to date, would become one of the most highly-acclaimed albums of all time.
With over 20 million copies sold worldwide, it debuted at the No.
1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart, breaking Madonna's record for first-week sales by a female artist.
During that time, she was also a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, and had a sold-out worldwide tour And let's not forget about her ten Grammy nominations and five wins including Album of the year, making her the first rapper to win Album of the Year.
Ms. Hill's talent earned her the respect from her predecessors and peers.
In an interview with Billboard, Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody said, "She knew how to incorporate melody into a rhyme so people could sing along with her, even as she was rapping about things that might have been complex."
In the same interview, Lizzo noted that "She set the bar.
I was always afraid of being a singer, but then when I heard Lauryn Hill, I was like, "Maybe I can do both."
Even though the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was such a great success, the world is still waiting for a sophomore album over 20 years later.
Ms. Hill said that lack of support and ideological differences were the reasons it never happened.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Ms. Hill said "No one from my label has ever called me and asked 'how can we help you make another album...ever [...] With the Miseducation, there was no precedent.
I was, for the most part, free to explore, experiment and express.
After the Miseducation, there were scores of tentacled obstructionists, politics, repressing agendas, unrealistic expectations, and saboteurs everywhere."
With only one solo album, some think that Ms. Hill's legacy stops with Miseducation, but that's not true.
In 2002, she released an MTV Unplugged album, which includes a performance of "Mystery of Iniquity" that was later sampled in Kanye West's "All Falls Down."
Ms. Hill also wrote and produced songs for legends like Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, CeCe Winans, Whitney Houston, and Santana.
Why do you think Miss Lauryn Hill has only released one album?
Everyone talks about this so much.
And also, I couldn't imagine creating something like The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill, and then trying to follow it up with all that pressure on me because, one, I gave y'all something really good.
I also did the live album.
I haven't completely like disappeared or whatever, but I'm also a human being.
Ms. Hill continues to tour and performs new renditions of her songs to keep it fresh for her audiences - and herself.
Since the Fugees broke up in 1997, they've performed together a few times, and there's been talk of another reunion.
And while she draws criticism for only releasing one studio album... her influence can be heard in the music of today's chart toppers like Beyoncé, Adele, J. Cole, Drake, and Cardi B...
I feel like a lot of the young artists, especially because I'm an R&B, especially R&B.
Yeah, take a lot of Lauryn influence.
They definitely do.
They definitely do.
And even I feel like a lot of the women who rap now, too, if you ask them, you know, who are your favorite almost all the time, they say Lauryn Hill.
And I'm just like, this is a testament to her impact.
Good night you guys, thank you very much.
Before you go, I want to let you know about Fight The Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World.
A new PBS series hosted by Hip-Hop legend Chuck D. It's about how Hip-Hop became a global movement that spoke truth to power.
Check out the link in the description below and let them know Sound Field sent you.