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Education is Everything

Lauryn Hill talks about the inspiration for her No. 1 album

September 9, 1998 12:00 AM ET

If you've been dying to dissect the doe-eyed, do-good diva Lauryn Hill, look no further than her long-awaited, much-acclaimed solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which is currently perched high atop the Billboard album charts. Uncluttered by sampling, braggadocio and remakes, each track on Miseducation is a window into Hill's influences, passions and pains.

Front and center, it's clear that the twenty-three-year-old, socially conscious single mother's world is woven closely around children. The heartfelt tribute to her young son, "To Zion," spells out how Hill's life has been shaped by his birth.

"I had always been one of those people who would make decisions to make people happy, and the birth of my son was probably the first decision that I had made for my own happiness," Hill says. "He's made me softer, harder, mixed-up, jumbled up, stinky, sweet, and spit-up-on. He's made me realize my true capacity to love."

Hill's affinity for children and their innocence is a theme that pops up throughout Miseducation, so much so that it inspired the album's title and recurring grade school class skits between tracks. "I've always been surrounded by a family of teachers," says Hill, "and I thought it would be interesting to put a bunch of kids in a classroom with a teacher and just talk about love."

Hill even gathered a group of kids from her South Orange, N.J. community and played teacher-for-a-day herself. "We asked kids what do you think about the world, what does it mean to you," explains Hill. "I think they communicate a lot of what I felt at one point and continue to feel. There were a lot of funny moments, and I was also really surprised to hear them say some really dark, ironic comments about love."

And Hill's brand of maternal affection and devotion to kids extends beyond her music. She's founded Camp Hill, in upstate New York, and Refugee Camp, in New Jersey, which are both outreach and education programs for underprivileged inner-city kids.

If Hill was indeed "miseducated," the lessons that she's plucked from life itself have given her all the tools of the trade.

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