You know the hardest conversation I've ever had in regards to music criticism? The one about Lauryn Hill.
It feels as if every time the former Fugees star reappears into public form, there needs to be a hefty, long-form "think piece" about her and her 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It's arguably the one single album people will not only trumpet its greatness, but literally attempt to chop the heads off of anyone who says otherwise.
Feel free to come at my head, but it's not really a classic. A good album? Yes, even a great one. But it's the initial sign that, post-Fugees, Hill believed in her own greatness far more than the opinion of someone who could have easily reined her in.
And we cannot blame anyone other than ourselves for allowing it to happen.
The clearest evidence of that is this past Saturday's release of "Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)," a song Hill argues was either a) forced by her label to be created; or b) was inspired by the death of Kris Kross rapper Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly.
In actuality, it was forced. Shit, the title itself says compulsory but if this is what we're getting for our tax dollars to force Lauryn Hill, of all people, a woman so reclusive from music good things then the government can keep it.
Within the song, Hill is for the most part rambling, almost excessively, about enough sociopolitical topics to make a Dennis Miller joke sound easy to catch the first time. Essentially, it's one long verse that feels like a page from some 11th-grader's notebook, scattered thoughts about what he felt in history class.
Mind you, this is all coming from a woman who once seemed to know melody and song structure with relative ease. But on the delivery of "Neurotic Society," it's almost as if we're in the booth with her, watching her record this thing while six people around her are all snapping their fingers and nobody is calling for it to stop.
I don't want to say that I've all but given up on HIll giving us something great again, but I'm coming pretty damn close to shutting the door on her returning to any semblance of a pastoral time musically. I don't think I've seen more reported fans look at an artist with hungry, Oliver Twist-like than Hill, "Please ma'am, can we have some more?", and be immediately disappointed with the results.
We need to finally admit it. Hill is not beyond reproach. Musically, her greatest feats occurred in February 1996 and August 1998, and everything apart from those two monolithic periods has been skittish at best. That unreleased "Repercussions" song seems so long ago, back when I didn't want to immediately run away from anything mentioning her name.
She may never escape what The Score and Miseducation brought her, but to a degree, Hill could have at least given us a better piece of prose at 96 BPM than this. Her tax issues have been reportedly been resolved, but I fear this continued route of Lauryn "Ms. Taxman" Hill will give us the worst, as opposed to her actually being... Lauryn.