by: We Rise and Shine
Every so often we have the opportunity to witness a creative genius who graces the world with their artistry. In 1998, the famed singer/songwriter/rapper/producer/actress Lauryn Hill released a solo project that solidified her position as an icon. Her sultry voice, classic image and masterful lyrics resonated with fans around the world. By the age of 23, Ms. Hill acquired more success than most people experience in a lifetime. Let's take a trip down memory lane, as we reflect on the impressive career of Ms. Lauryn Hill.
Hill was raised in South Orange, New Jersey, where she began singing with her music-oriented family during her childhood; her mother was a piano player and father was a singer. At age 13, she appeared as a contestant on Showtime at the Apollo. Hill attended Columbia High School, where she was a cheerleader, learned to play violin, dance and was a part of the school’s gospel choir. In high school, Hill was approached by Pras Michel to start a band, called the "Tranzlator Crew," which his cousin, Wyclef Jean, soon joined. This decision would soon change her life, and introduce the world to the artist we know today.
In 1991, Hill made her first appearance in an Off-Broadway called ‘Club XII’, which was a hip-hop version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. She was noticed by an agent, who landed her a recurring role in the soap opera "As the World Turns." In 1993, Hill appeared in "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" alongside Whoopi Goldberg. During that same year, the Fugees signed a contract with Columbia/Ruffhouse Records after changing their name from “Tranzlator Crew.” The group became known for their genre blending, particularly of reggae, rock and soul, which was first experimented on their debut album, Blunted on Reality, released in 1994. It reached number 62 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Within the group, she was frequently referred to by the nickname "L. Boogie," and gained notoriety due to her soulful, raspy voice, which placed her at the forefront of the band. In 1996, The Fugees' released their second album, The Score, which sold about six million copies in the United States and more than 17 million copies worldwide - making the Fugees the highest-selling rap group of all time.
The album's success also garnered two Grammy Awards - Best Rap album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. At 21 years old, the now famous Hill was still living at home with her parents. She had been enrolled at Columbia University during this period, and considered majoring in history as she became a sophomore, but left after about a year once sales of The Score went into the millions. In 1996, Hill founded the Refugee Project, a non-profit outreach organization that sought to transform the attitudes and behavior of at-risk urban youth. Hill also raised money for Haitian refugees, supported clean water well-building projects in Kenya and Uganda, and staged a rap concert in Harlem to promote voter registration.
In 1998, Lauryn Hill released her solo debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and became the first woman or hip-hop artist to win five Grammy Awards—for album of the year, best new artist, Best Female R&B performance, Best R&B song ("Doo Wop (That Thing)") and Best R&B album. After an extended hiatus, Hill returned in 2001 with MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, a recording of her two-hour acoustic performance on the popular series MTV Unplugged. The track 'Mystery of Iniquity' earned Hill a Grammy nomination, despite no promotion or radio play.
Outside of her performance career, Hill is a dedicated activist. Her organization, The Refugee Camp Youth Project, raises money to send inner-city children to summer camp.
Hill has five children with longtime boyfriend Rohan Marley, the son of legendary reggae singer Bob Marley: Zion, Selah Louise, Joshua, John and Sarah. Hill also has a son from a later relationship, Micah, who was born on July 23, 2011.