The Myth of Lauryn Hill: Still Flippin’ On a Dirty Mattress?

Lauryn Hill goes to JailSo by now we have all heard about the on going tax troubles of the magnificently talented Lauryn Hill.  As of May 6th she was sentenced to 3 months in a federal prison to be followed by 3 months of house arrest for tax evasion.  For several years (around 10yrs), Hill lived in a state of self-imposed reclusiveness.  She perceived herself deeply imbedded in the hostile environment known as the music industry.  Hill also attributed her reclusive life to a season of personal crisis that stemmed from her struggle to explore an artistic freedom to her identity and to her purpose in life.  In this process of seemingly self-discovery and self-reflection she became enraged with the realities of life; more specifically, she was incensed by the dynamics of our economic system and how she intimately fit into it as a music artist.  Hence Hill’s frustrations were poorly assessed and then her actions were misdirected.

Hill and guitarTo cap off tax woes, on May 3rd Lauryn Hill released her new single Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix).  This is her first solo studio recording since her 1998 epic masterpiece The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. The song is a much-anticipated release for her loyal fans who have been eagerly awaiting something from Hill.  However, for Hill this release was uncelebrated and indeed, as a portion of the song title suggest, is ‘compulsory’.  In a statement written on Hill’s tumblr page, she suggests that this released was rushed to satisfy the legal goodwill of her debt and part of a contract fulfillment with her newly signed deal with Sony records.  On her site Hill states,

I was ‘required’ to release [the song] immediately, by virtue of the impending legal deadline. I love being able to reach people directly, but in an ideal scenario, I would not have to rush the release of new music… but the message is still there.

The message may be still there, however, it is mired by its intent to satisfy everyone but the long-suffering ‘L Boogie’ fan.  Its hurried, manic, and its urgent verbal cadence is off putting in terms of the amazing legacy previously laid down by L Boogie over a decade ago.  Reviews of the song by fans are mixed to say the least. Rather a battle of polarized fans of die-hards who, without regard, follow and buy anything L Boogie puts her finger on vs others fans who are about to drop her off a at the bridge if she doesn’t come out bangin’.  An honest discerning fan will assess the track, which is solely written and produced by Hill as a failing effort.

Lauryn Hill reflectingThat same honest fan whom performs a cursory analysis of the song will find it falls short of the previously mythic larger than life Lauryn Hill recordings that somehow remain fresh in our minds.  Its tax bill driven release sent the single to a sad musical landscape of amateur music–attempting to lockstep with seasoned professionals.  At its worst, the track’s music is entirely distracting bordering on annoying.  The lyrics are overused baseless metaphors.  L Boogie attempts a less than tepid foray into intelligent verse and dangerous word play. Smart and edgy it is not!  Instead its tone is angry and vengeful. I guess as it should be. She’s pissed!

Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix) is not what we were expecting.  It is a dangerous release for her.  The song reveals she is not who we thought she was.  It alone will topple the regal-ness of Lauryn Hill if it is not backed up by an entire album that sits us on our ass and makes us take notice and re-embrace Ms Lauryn Hill as we once imagined her: ‘Flippin’ in the ghetto on a dirty mattress’.  Head Over Hills by Ernie BarnesIf that does not happen, the song will leave the honest fan wondering where is that great lyricist, singer, and poet who cleverly placed the experience of Black life at the center of her soulful and hip hop drenched conversations with the music world all while cloaked in femininity that could easily be embraced by any sensible brotha?  L Boogie is a giant.  L Boogie was a giant. Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix) threatens to expose her as a once upon a time genius.  As such, if she is not careful, the masses will easily and happily toss her to the rocks on the side of the road like many others only to be remembered moments after she has taken her last breath.

Only time will tell.  We have at lest 6 months to wait until L Boogie pays her debt to a ‘sane’ society and gets back to work on fixing the wrong that is Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix) Everything isn’t everything! However, we can be sure of two things: death and taxes! Ha!

Check out Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix) below: