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Inside 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill'

Page 3 of 5

"Nothing Even Matters"

Nobles: Lauryn was in the kitchen at the house up the hill in Jersey where she'd moved with her parents when we first played "Nothing Even Matters" for her. I was so excited but Lauryn didn't get it musically. Sony started putting a lot of pressure on her to hurry and wrap the record up. She started scrambling, going back through the ideas and then the lyrics came together.

Che Vicious: I was messing around with these finger snap sounds for the D'Angelo song ["Nothing Even Matters"] and she started coming with the song out of her head. We built the record around this weird snap pattern. That's how it was with her — the creative process wasn't this strict environment.

Randolph: "Nothing Even Matters" I hold dear to my heart because I got to meet Mr. D'Angelo, himself.

D'Angelo: Collaborating with Lauryn was very cool. She was warm and sweet. Originally, we were going to swap tunes for each other's projects because I was working on Voodoo at the same time and my keyboardist James Poyser was also working with her. I went to her house in New Jersey, she played a lot of songs for me and gave me a rough copy to listen to. When Lauryn and I went into in the studio together, I laid down my vocals in the course of an hour.

 

"Everything Is Everything"

Nobles: A friend of mine had a little studio in East Orange [New Jersey] where "Everything Is Everything" came about. Lauryn didn't need to use fancy studios — she was down. The title concept came from Donny Hathaway. Then John Legend came by and played. He was trying to get his career off the ground.

John Legend: I was in the spring of my junior year at University of Pennsylvania. A friend invited me to give her a ride to Lauryn's house in Jersey. Lauryn was working "Everything Is Everything." I sang and played a couple songs for her. She asked me to play piano on the track. She guided me a little bit but it was pretty simple because I was playing along with a string part that was already there. I became known around campus as the dude who played on "Everything Is Everything." It was my little claim to fame at Penn for my whole senior year.

 

Wrapping Up

Commissioner Gordon: "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" was never meant to be a commercial single. It was originally recorded for [the soundtrack for the movie] Conspiracy Theory and ended up on the radio, became popular, and that's how it ended became a bonus track. She called me and said she was behind and had to get it done. She didn't know how the arrangement of the song went, so we went and got a copy from Coconuts or Sam Goody. I had a little one-room 16-track studio in my apartment in Jersey. Lauryn was eight months pregnant, laying on her back on the floor, half asleep, holding a handheld mike. She did all of those vocals off the top of her head pretty much in one take, with the beat box and all of that. That blew me away.

Candice Anderson (backup singer): I came in during the last two songs. I had just auditioned at her house and they were like, come to Chung King. I had no clue what was going on but she told us what to sing. "Tell Him" took a while because she's very particular about how she wants it to sound. We'll keep going until it gets to exactly what she hears in her head and she won't stop until she gets exactly what she wants.

Jackson: For the album title, she wanted something like The Education of Sonny Carson and we were like, why don't you make it more self-deprecating, like The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill? People heard it as her opus and what she was, but in hindsight I think it was more about what she aspired to be. And what else is art but the best side of who you are and who you wanna be?

Ras Baraka (poet, politician and teacher who served as Miseducation's narrator): I was running for councilman in Newark and was also an eighth grade teacher. I was just about to take two of my students home and Lauryn called and asked if I could come up to her house in South Orange. There were chairs set up in the living room and a bunch of kids were there. She told me she wanted to discuss the concept of love. There was a blackboard and I wrote the letters "LOVE" and we just went into the whole discussion.

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