By: Njera Perkins
The film Brown Sugar showed me how great Hip-Hop was. Not only did the movie perfectly chronicle the beauty of Hip-Hop from its roots in the Bronx to its evolution in the present-day, but it also positioned the quotable line “When did you first fall in love with Hip-Hop?” at the root of a love story. The answer to this question is different for everyone. For some it was a single track that changed their entire perspective on Hip-Hop. For me it was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill that showed me a whole new world I never knew existed. Her album gifted me an unconditional love for Hip-Hop that only her talents could produce.
Her timeless offering evolves around independence, self-worth, and most of all love. On each track Hill explores every form of love there is to know - heartbreak, toxic love, self-love, loss, and motherhood. Songs like “To Zion” exemplified the pureness of a mother’s love for her child, while “Nothing Even Matters” and “When It Hurts So Bad” reminded us that love could bring us our highest highs and lowest lows.
Hill positioned Black women as complex, multilayered individuals and also affirmed our right to feel, think and challenge without hesitation. She encouraged us to have pride in ourselves and reject notions that Black women are creatures incapable of experiencing true, healthy love. She challenged us to embrace every part of our identity-even the parts society wasn’t ready to accept. And, in the face of misogynoir that aims to silence our womanhood and Blackness, Lauryn Hill’s album provided the soundtrack to combat it.
Yet her impact didn’t end there. Her willingness to speak on taboo narratives paved the way for others to expand their palettes. Black women were given a blueprint to defy the status quo and write our own, authentic truths. It was made for women like me, who need sincere messages in a genre that isn’t always so affectionate. Who need symbols of love that came from compassion and tenderness instead of exploitation and abuse. Who need affirmations that they too should demand the attention of everyone in a world where the genius of Black women is often overlooked.
Everyday I fall more and more in love with Hip-Hop, but it was Lauryn Hill’s debut that taught me how to love Hip-Hop and how Hip-Hop could love me back.