For anyone that has been listening to “Killing Me Softly” on repeat since The Fugees’ disappearance in the 1990s, I have some good news. Lauryn Hill, who has evaded the public eye since the release of her last album in 1998, is apparently back in the studio. The singer, who abandoned the music business over a decade ago claiming she was being “unfairly controlled” by her record label, released a statement on her Tumblr page earlier this week announcing that she has signed a deal with Sony Worldwide Entertainment will be making her re-entry into the entertainment industry later this year in order to pay off the 500,000 dollars she owes from her tax evasion stint a few years back. While some people are excited for this new album, others are skeptical of the singer, who has garnered attention over the years for her unusual antics.
And how unusual is unusual? Well, in 2003, during a concert at the Vatican, Lauryn entered a tirade about child molestation and proceeded to sing songs about social justice. (Talk about bold.) Later, in 2005, during The Fugees 2005 European reunion tour, the rapper began insisting that she be called Ms. Hill at all times, even by her band-mates, and that her stage name was no longer Lauryn, but “Empress.” The most controversial story, though, came from a caller on The Howard Stern show in 1996, who claimed Ms. Hill had made racist statements during an interview with MTV along the lines of “I would rather have my children starve than have white people buy my albums.”
I can see how the Vatican comment and the “Empress” thing might rank high on the “crazy meter” but I’m not buying the racism argument. Anyone who knows anything about McCarthyism, the Salem Witch Hunts, or high school gossip knows the destructive power of a rumor. Slapping an innocent man with a false sexual harassment claim is the equivalent of calling him guilty because once you connect the person to the idea, once you say “Now that I think about it, he does look pretty sketchy,” you will never be able to shake that impression. In Lauryn Hill’s case, her reputation was determined by a random talk show caller regarding an MTV interview that was never uncovered. No one has been able to confirm the comment the listener heard, including MTV itself. And yet, it has circulated through the media as fact. Lauryn Hill could make an insensitive comment about race every other word. She could go around saying she wants bands of white people to pull her chariot when she promotes herself from Empress to Queen. But if there is not definitive proof of these comments, I’ll remain hesitant to believe them.
Ms. Hill’s other behavior, though, is inexcusable. It’s one thing to call someone out on criminal charges or their negative reputation on Twitter. It’s another thing to discuss the Vatican’s history of child molestation at the Vatican to a crowd of religious people when you were invited to perform there. She’s trying to make a statement. I get that. It just seems a little extreme to me but then again, I tend to avoid confrontation at all cost so the thought of doing anything even remotely similar to that gives me anxiety.
What really gets me is the growing sense of entitlement she seems to be displaying. Because not only did she insist that she be referred to as Ms. Hill but she also developed a Lindsay Lohan-esque level of reliability. Throughout 2005, Lauryn was known to show up late to her own performances, sometimes even arriving two hours past the time the show was supposed to start. It’s one thing to mistreat your band members and your friends; it’s another to mistreat your fans. When you enter the entertainment industry, you are signing up for more than fortune and fame. You are signing up to be a role model, and whether you like it or not, there will be people who will cherish every single move you make. When you show up 2 hours late to a concert that these people paid for, you are proving to them that you do not care enough about them to even be there on time. What kind of message does that send?
But I don’t think Lauryn is all crazy. I can understand where she is coming from in terms of hating the attention from the media. I can’t imagine walking out my front door and immediately spotting 3 different photographers hiding in my bushes or accidentally wearing two different colored socks and finding a picture of my ankles on the front page of every magazine a week later. Fame comes at a price, it’s true, and perhaps it was just one that Ms. Hill wasn’t prepared for. Maybe she took a hiatus from the music business to weaken her fame, to make people forget about her for awhile. (If this is the case, then this article isn’t really helping, is it?)
Regardless, I’m kind of excited for Lauryn to return to the music world. Do you think her unusual antics are a thing of the past? Is she going to “pull a Britney” and sing her way out of Crazyland and back into our hearts?