Women's History in Hip Hop: Lauryn Hill

Graphic by Jasmin Valvourt

Graphic by Jasmin Valvourt

By Niki McGloster

Those who overlook the accomplishments of women in hip-hop view the genre through a broken prism. Sure, lyrical men's bars gleam brightly at the top of charts, but the femmes have exceptionally achieved royal heights in the rap world and beyond. Women like Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, and Rapsody have elbowed through sexism and misogyny to garner critical acclaim, rack up Grammys and build undeniable empires. There are a few women who’ve bounced back better than Big Sean to become rhyme queens. Today, we’re taking a closer look at female rapper Lauryn Hill. We’ll be spotlighting two more female rappers later this week!

Animation by Jasmin Valcourt

Animation by Jasmin Valcourt

When talking rap queens, Lauryn Hill is easily the topic of conversation. The sole female in best-selling group the Fugees before putting her solo stamp on the music biz, L. Boogie is an unexpected blend of powerful lyricism and sweet, soulful vocals. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her magnum opus, is still a tour de force that other rap women can’t touch (sorry, not sorry). So what’s that thing that Hill has others don’t? She’s a survivor and the pain and resilience shine through every lyric.

1994: The Fugees released their debut album Blunted On Reality, after a long road of grinding at local high school showcases. Before the deal, Hill learned to rap and began her acting career with roles in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and soap opera As The World Turns.

1996: Hill and her male counterparts dropped the explosive album, The Score, which wins the Grammy for Best Rap Album. The project’s blend of hip-hop, pop, reggae and rock thrust it into a universally loved stratosphere. That same year, she also founded the Refugee Project, which catered to the transformation of at-risk youth.

1997: Hill and group member Wyclef Jean’s romantic relationship turned complicated causing the group to split. In the same year, despite encouragement to have an abortion, Hill birthed her son, Zion, the child with Rohan Marley who inspired her popular cut, “To Zion.”

1998: L. Boogie blessed her fans with multi-platinum-selling album,  The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which is still arguably the best album to date by a female rapper. It also broke the record for best record first-week sales by a female artist.

1999: For her brilliance and vulnerability on Miseducation, Hill earned 10 Grammy nominations at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards, the most noms for a woman in one night.

2001: She settled out of court with New Ark, a group of musicians, following a lawsuit that claimed she didn’t credit them for their work on Miseducation.

2012: Following years of domestic discord with Marley, tensions with the Fugees and what appeared to be a breakdown, Hill was charged with tax fraud. She was jailed in 2013 for three months for failing to pay taxes.

2017: Today, Hill tours but is infamously late to every show. Still, fans show up to get a glimpse of the female MC’s majestic performance.

Niki McGloster is a Maryland-based writer, producer and co-founder of her sweat. She has written for ESSENCE, Genius, Billboard, VIBE and Teen Vogue. Follow her on Twitter at @missjournalism.