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I'm Over Lauryn Hill -- Fugees Front Woman Has 'Lost One' Fan

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Review//Video, Words/Video: Tasin Sabir// Photos: JR Valrey Posted: Jul 12, 2006

Editor's Note: The Hip Hop loving world has been eagerly anticipating the return of Lauryn Hill to the music scene. Her fans may be disappointed in what she has become since climbing her way to the top of the music world with the Fugees and as a solo artist after her ground breaking, multi-platinum, grammy winning solo debut -- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Sabir is an editor at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

Lauryn Hill performed Friday night, June 30 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Billed as an "Open Rehersal", Hill created such a frenzy that a second show was added. Everybody has been waiting for this brown skinned wonder to return from musical exhile.

She hasn't put out a studio album since the classic "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" took over the world at the turn of the millenium.

Standing in line for the late show I overheard some girls leaving the early show talking about how the rehersal went. One girl described it as a waste of time -- everything was just too loud and it was impossible to hear Hill. Another young woman added that it hadnt been worth her time. Undaunted I went in hoping they were wrong.

When the concert/rehearsal began twelve people came onto the stage. It was Lauryn Hill so of course she had to have a super-sized jazz/funk band.

She had a sax player, a trombone, a trumpet, like a million guitarists, two drummers, a keyboard player, a back-up singer, a bass player and probably some instruments Im not remembering. I think it was overkill but they sounded amazing.

Hill came on shortly after the band played a few songs wearing a wig from the Erykah Badu collection, one big-ass afro wig. She was also wearing corduroy bell bottoms, a mans dress shirt, a black leather jacket, and a homeless-man's scarf. She looked like she was auditioning for the Jackson Five movie.

Still, I held my breath, leaned over the balcony and waited for that signature sound. She started singing and...she didnt sound horrible, but she sounded nothing like the Lauryn I loved to listen to. If it wasnt Lauryn on stage, I wouldve left the concert early.

The girls in line were right. Whoever did the sound should've been fired because Hills voice was muffled behind all of those instruments blaring. But when I did isolate a single note I was not impressed. Sounding shaky and strained, she left the high notes up in the sky and didnt even try to touch them.

Hill preformed some new material and put a fresh spin on some old hits of her's from "Miseducation" like Lost Ones and Zion. Towards the end of the concert she sang How Many Mics which I would not have recognized if the beat wasnt familiar -- she energetically mangled the Fugees classic.

Lauryn performing "How Many Mics" @ the Great American Music Hall

This is a streaming MP4 video - you'll need Quicktime 6 or later to view it.

She sang as if she had a message that was dying to be let out or perhaps she was racing against the clock because the concert began at 1:15 and by 2:00 the crowd didnt want to see her go and Hill wasnt going to leave until she was good and ready.

2:05 approached and her band kept playing and she kept on singing. The main lights were shut on, but that didnt work. Then the all the lights were shut off, but that didnt work either. Until finally the sound was cut and it was just one voice and 600 or so fans eagerly waiting for more. Hill delivered. She came to the edge of the stage and silenced the crowd with an a cappella version of I Find it Hard to Say.

Lauryn Hill the rapping, reggae-singing goddess is now a funk, jazz-singing, rapping, so-so blues artist and you can hear every ounce of pain in her voice.

Her screams and shrills are her new instruments. She does whatever she feels and defines the notion of putting emotion into a song, but is it too much emotion? Much like her performance on the awful MTV Unplugged CD/DVD released in 2002, Lauryn started crying at one point.

If 'Unplugged' was a preview of what Hill has now become then why tease us with the dream of the Fugees reuniting? I believe a lot of fans won' t be into the funk style that she has now adapted. Not the little girls like me who fell in love with her as the hardest Fugee or the emancipated, in control, 'Miseducation' version of Lauryn.

The young women that love her so much, enough to pay $40.00 to see a 'rehersal', might be confused and perhaps disappointed if Lauryn Hill comes all the way back into the modern music world with this act.

Lauryn working it out with her band @ the show.

This is a streaming MP4 video - you'll need Quicktime 6 or later to view it.

It was really difficult, almost painful, watching Lauryn perform. Now she reads as an emotionally shook woman using songs as her therapy in an almost too personal way to share with an audience.

My first real assignment as a photojournalist was to cover the Lauryn Hill concert at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, 1999. I remember hearing her voice and thinking it was perfection. That raspy bold sound carried in a way Id never heard before.

I remember rewinding that one scene in Sister Act 2 where shes singing at the piano and that skinny nun is secretly listening behind the door. I remember playing Strumming My Pain over and over again trying to match at least one of those impossible notes and I remember actually liking her voice.

But unfortunately I am not a fan anymore.

What happened to the girl with braids from Sister Act 2? Or the woman with dread locks telling girls to 'Watch Out?'

"What happened to Lauryn Hill?" was what I thought the entire concert and it honestly made me sad for her. Sad to the point where I clapped and I cheered after songs to motivate this poor lady with the frail voice who used to be so great.

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