See, when folks throw around expressions like “I’ll pray for you,” it really ought to be done with positive energy and good vibes, not in a condemning nature.
And it is with a sister like Lauryn Hill, who was sentenced today to three months in jail for tax evasion and who has since signed a new deal with SONY in order to pay off her $1 million debt, that I can sincerely say for her: “I’ll pray for you.”
So, this track, titled “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix),” was produced under duress, according to Lauryn’s tumblr:
Here is a link to a piece that I was ‘required’ to release 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. In light of Wednesday’s tragic loss (of former label mate Chris Kelly), I am even more pressed to YELL this to a multitude that may not understand the cost of allowing today’s unhealthy paradigms to remain unchecked!
Sigh. I really don’t know what went wrong, but I really felt saddened when I learned the news today of her sentence. See, I’m one of those folks who grew up, not just on soul, but on hip-hop, and her The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album got me through some tough times when I was working on my dissertation as a doctoral student. Lauryn, for me, represented the “truth.” Her flow was so fierce, and she could sing. And she wrote powerful messages about love, about religion, about racism, about community-building, about politics. She was deep back in the day. And, she was poised – poised I tell you! – to dominate the pop culture scene the way Beyonce is doing now. At the height of her popularity, after winning Grammys for her defining album, she had been offered movie roles in The Bourne Identity, The Matrix, Beloved, you name it. She was a dark-skinned beauty who wore her hair natural, and her beauty was recognized and celebrated in mainstream media!
But, something happened. It seemed like she couldn’t handle the fame, she got religion, got involved with one of Bob Marley’s sons, gave birth to six children, and just disappeared. You know how long we in the soul/hip-hop community had been waiting for her post-Miseducation album, which was never forthcoming? And, no, her Unplugged thing does not count!
We waited in vain, obviously. In fact, this year will mark the 15th anniversary of Miseducation. Never, while writing my dissertation with Lauryn’s voice in the background, would I have predicted that, 15 years after such demonstrable Genius!, that she’d be getting sentenced to jail!
Y’all, I can’t! I just can’t!
Why are my sistas messing up? I mean, last year, when waiting – again, in vain – for Whitney to get her act together, she ended up dead. And now, another sista, whose music meant so much to me, is going to end up in jail.
Meanwhile, Beyonce is “shocked” that the public reacted so angrily over her recent trip to Cuba. I hope she’s paying attention since she’s been making a few missteps this year.
Maybe it’s a good thing that the idols I’m now enamored with, like David, are safe enough to not make the same kinds of mistakes (or who won’t get targeted in the same way). At least, we can only hope. Maybe it’s a good thing they’re doing their own thing under the radar.
I guess I’m just deeply saddened that someone I once admired would meet this kind of end. And while I’m glad we’ve finally gotten some new music, the idea that she signed a “deal with the devil” (y’all don’t know – SONY was called “the devil” by Michael Jackson, and Prince once called himself a “slave” when he couldn’t get out of a contract with them) and still couldn’t wrangle a “Get Out of Jail” free card after all that, just makes me really rethink this thing called Music and what it is doing to our artists.
Yes, they mess up and make mistakes, but why? How can they be saved? And if I buy Lauryn’s new music, am I supporting her or am I supporting SONY? She talks about our “Neurotic Society,” but is this simply a plea for help for her own neurosis or a play on everyone assuming she’s crazy/neurotic (when society is “crazy,” as she raps, what does crazy really mean)?
I’m just going to pray for all these sistas who seem to be having meltdowns, and self-destructing, so publicly. I wish the artists I admired had proven to be as strong as the music they gave us.