Lauryn Hill’s solo debut — and as yet, sole album — The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was a critical sensation shortly after its release 20 years ago today. A passionate heartbreak record played with a seamless blend of hip-hop, rock and soul, it was showered with awards and accolades: The first rap album to win the Grammy for Album of the Year, the first solo release from a female rapper to hit Number One on the Billboard 200 and it topped the Year End lists for Rolling Stone, Spin and Entertainment Weekly.
She didn’t need a lengthy introduction for her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards the following year, but none other than David Bowie gave her an excellent one regardless. “Every year, an artist comes along and creates a seminal album that changes everything that we think about music. He or she finds connections that the rest of us don’t make, and they see our world in a unique and extraordinary fashion,” said Bowie about Hill before she took to the stage to perform.
Now famous for constantly tweaking the arrangements of her songs, here “Lost Ones,” the album’s most riotous track, was given a lush remake with a church organ-style intro and some Stevie-fied groove. “Everything Is Everything” was given some funky horns and featured Hill descending a few steps to get closer to the audience. Later that night, her Big TV!-directed video for “Doo Wop (That Thing)” would take home the trophy for Video of the Year — in another first, it was the first rap clip to win in the show’s history.