Inside 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill'

Page 4 of 5

Release and Reception

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was released on August 25th, 1998 and sold 422,600 copies its first week in stores — a SoundScan record for best-selling debut week for a female artist. In January 1999, Hill received 10 Grammy nominations. The following month she took home five trophies including the awards for Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Best R&B Song. She read from Psalm 40 during one of her acceptance speeches.

Jackson: Lauryn became an international superstar. She couldn't go to the grocery store without makeup and I think that had an adverse effect on her. We had a huge year at the Grammys and then Carlos Santana had the big year next year and she presented for Carlos. It wasn't so much the amount of records we sold but how we sold them — we didn't put out six singles, seven videos, do every TV talk show and just milk it. We marketed and presented her as a classy, genuine person and that resonated and that's why we're still talking about it 'til this day.

Poyser: The lyrics of that record really struck a chord with everybody, it really touched a lot of souls. The best songs are testimonies of life that everybody can relate to. Everybody can't relate to balling and drinking Cristal and running around with a million chicks and driving a Bentley. Everybody can relate to heartache and love.

D'Angelo: Churches were substituting God in the lyrics [for "Nothing Even Matters"]. Whenever they make a gospel version from a secular song, that's significant.

Commissioner Gordon: Knowing Lauryn was definitely a blessing and whatever time we spent together was all very significant and that is evident in the thing that we created. She was just gifted.


The Lawsuit

Jackson: After all that beauty, she hurt a lot of people that loved her because she got hurt.

Che Vicious: She gave me co-production [on "To Zion"], but I did the track on my own. There was label pressure to do the Prince thing — written and produced by. I still love you like a sister, but you didn't do it on your own.

Commissioner Gordon: Sometimes when you have a really big blessing, you have a really big weight that comes along with that and some people can get weak along the way. The highs were super, super high and the lows were super, super low. She was like, "I'm releasing myself of the burdens of this worldly business and I'm going into my sabbatical."

Nobles: Everything changed. It went from we to I. Everything started out genuine but somewhere down the line, something switched. Once it became clear that I wouldn't be credited or compensated according to what's fair, I had to voice how I felt. I had a wife and family. She barely credited me. She gave Che my credits. As God as my witness, that was in spite. I tried my best to resolve it without lawyers but it became impossible. The suit dragged on for about three years. They tried to discredit us that we were musicians trying to take advantage of her.

Jackson: Our mistake was Lauryn never wanted to do paperwork or formalize the relationship with them. She was like, "I don't want them to feel like they work for me" and that came back to bite us. She looked at Vada as a drum programmer, like I want you to make a beat — take that out, do this. Kilo claimed to be an MC but early on it became clear that he wasn't no MC. She was trying to decide between a line about Polos or Girbauds. I was like, Polo is more classic. So I could've claimed I wrote a fucking verse for her! Ain't nobody write no Lauryn Hill song, them shits was way too personal. They sued Lauryn, Sony, Ruffhouse Records, me, Suzette — everybody. The case was dragging on and it just got really ugly.


Marley: A team of them ganged up against her. Of course she sits there like, Ro, give me a word that rhymes with rat. I say cat just to trigger something, Nobody writes anything for her. Because she's a woman of the Almighty, she doesn't wanna fight. It's like someone telling a lie on me and I'm standing there defending a lie.


Che Vicious: I'm glad I was a part of it, the only thing that taints it for me is I wish it was properly credited. Maybe in retrospect I should have sued her. But it doesn't taint the body of work because at the end of the day people loved the record. I felt like we could have made more than just one. I'm sad about that.

Nobles: Eventually Lauryn decided she didn't wanna go on with it no more. The lawyers were mad that she wanted to quit. Kilo and I went to her house and made peace right after the depositions. I haven't seen or heard from her since.

James Poyser (songwriter/producer): The business end of it got extremely, extremely messy. You chalk it up to experience. When you throw your heart out there, you gotta be prepared for it to not land somewhere soft.

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