Whitey Ford Sings The Blues (Tommy Boy Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Lauryn Hill, of the innovatively talented trio, The Fugees, is now out on her own. In one the most highly anticipated albums of the year, Lauryn Hill has somehow found the talent, courage and know-how to create an album worthy of her praise and the media's hype.
She, the 90's hip hop lyrical version of poetess Nikki Giovanni, is captivating indeed with her rhymes, flow and beats. The knowledge and depth of her words create visions to the listener, thereby placing us into her storylines, her life situations. There is commonality in her words. "The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill" is an album that is truly diverse in all aspects of the word. There is Latin, soul, funk, blues, gospel and straight hip hop flavor throughout this work. Lauryn, during her breaks between birthing babies, has somehow found time to fuse her abilities as a rapper, a singer and writer into this cohesive effort, that alone warrants talent in my book.
"Lost Ones", her debut track from the album starts the listener on a journey with rough, rugged beats over funk baselines. She comes strong with her gift of rhyme meter and her freestyle versing. "To Zion", the tribute to her first born son, Zion, and collaboration with Carlos Santana, is a heartfelt dedication to her struggling decision to go on with his life. She bestows upon her manchild the knowledge that indeed he is a gift. A tribute of a mother's love for sure. "Doo Wop (That Thing)", the second release from the album is such a playful, yet informatively straightforward groove which blends her harmonic vocals and range beautifully. A favorite! "Superstar", a blues oriented tack laced with jazz effects. It is so smooth and her delivery is magnetic. "I Used To Love Him", another favorite, has Lauryn getting gospel- soul-bluesy on us. This track, a duet with the soul diva Mary J. Blige is a woeful song that certainly makes this listener feel, contemplate and even grow with these women who found the errors of loving a man too hard, thereby placing him before the Higher Power. Moving! "Every Ghetto, Every City" is a sharp, almost slick tune that gives Lauryn vocal flexing that creates chills within my bones and is almost reminiscent of Fionna Apple with the roll of her words. Surely a tribute of some of the ?70's classics such as Stevie Wonder's works.
"Nothing Even Matters", Lauryn's duet with soulster D'Angelo is a soft, supple, sweet and cherishing tune. Their vocal meshing, the instrumentation is like laying in grass on a warm spring day with the one you love. Poetic! "Everything Is Everything", slick once again with the lyrics, the flow and the soul. "The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill", title track of the album, is a beautiful track that pours over the soul like rain water. Lauryn riffs, hums and harmonizes with such emotive inflection that you feel the spirituality, you see the visions, you feel the passions of her heart. Simply gorgeous. There are two hidden tracks that should be heeded. "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" and the stirring "Tell Him" is glorious in itself. She lends some of her best vocals on this tune.
The album overall receives a strong 5. Lauryn has become the Queen of Hip Hop Blues & Soul. Her spiritually influenced lyrics and soul enriched delivery on all of her tracks qualifies this album as indeed being worthy of all the hype. She has proven herself to be a creature of creative force. A force to be reckoned with in the coming years. She is becoming a voice to the female community. She is identifiable, complex and understanding of the heart struggles we all endure. Sista-girl Lauryn with your heavy brown eyes, speak on.