Dear Lauryn

Feb 17, 1999 at 12:00 am
To the reclusive Lauryn Hill,

L-Boogie. You don’t know me. I’m just a humble reporter – oxymoron? – who, at one point, looked forward to interviewing you for this story. You turned me down.

I realize you are not obligated to every journalist asking for a moment of your time. But understand that, when a story as big as Lauryn Hill comes to town, it’s rather difficult to avoid running something. Especially when the artist has a spirit that appeals to the underground, but a ministry that appeals to the mainstream.

I should be unfazed by your 10 Grammy nominations. It was my prediction in the Sept. 2, 1998, edition of this very paper that The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill would make you an anchor in the women’s hip-hop movement. You worked that album, and you deserve mad recognition.

Your career is a case study in perfect timing. Every move you make seems to happen at just the right moment. The Fugees’ defining album, The Score, presented a perfect contradiction to the status quo in rap music. Where the majority of rappers tended to be male – and, arguably, misogynist – the ground you stood on was equal to your testosterous counterparts. And while other artists chose to glorify violence and street life, the Fugees provided balance by spit-shining old standards by Flack and Marley, and moving more than 10 million units in the process. Then, you drop this current bomb that carries its own weight with a spiritual, cultural approach to love and life. Ingenious stuff. I guess Chris Rock was right when he said selling violence in America can make you rich, but being proper and nice can set you up for life.

So now, Ms. Hill, you’ve got the admiration of God-knows-how-many women who want to be just like you, and another throng of men who want to be with a woman just like you. In the process of this angelic ascent, you’ve created room in your life for love and family. I heard you got engaged and, besides trippin’ on how you got a Jamaican man to settle down – joke – I wonder how you’re gonna balance a career, a marriage, two tykes and the business of being the hottest woman of the moment. Had we spoken, I would’ve asked if you’re trying to bite Diana Ross: have a kid, make a record, shine, have a kid, make a record, shine some more.

Another question: How does it feel when fame, fortune and adoration give you a group hug? And what’s it like being labeled a "diva" when you don’t fit the type? When you wake up in the morning, how much quiet time do you get before the phone rings with another interview request? And how many writers like me have you called "muthaf–a," writers who, when faced with a momentous occasion and no interview to aid the celebration, go for the next best thing? It must get trifling sometimes, but the obvious must be stated. To clarify what’s painfully clear already, folks lo-o-ove them some Lauryn Hill. They want to see you, touch you, feel you. You’re more than a star to some people. You’re an icon closing in on becoming an ideal. You’re a poster child for the "good woman," the strong sista in every man’s dreams. And the role model for mindless bi-otches across the world. Frankly, some people identify with you more than they do with themselves.

I’m not famous, but I get paid to study famous people. And my studies show that, when someone grows as popular as you, life becomes rather predictable. People begin responding to you in predictable ways. When you’re riding high, fans sweat you like famine at a feast. After a year or so of heavy bra strap clinging, they find a reason to play you out, finding the most ridiculous reasons to hate you. Why she so damn skinny? What she smokin’? Stuff like that. Or you start to get overwhelmed by the hordes of people tugging at you around the clock. That must feel like being fondled on a street full of strangers.

Considering the five years of intense media relations you’ve had to handle, I understand your reluctance to talk. Add the lawsuit against you for allegedly hogging writing and production credits on your album – those bastards! – and the tour which starts tomorrow here in Detroit at the Fox, and you figure a woman’s got to have some peace at some point. So you stepped on our hearts. But it’s cool.

If it helps, I am well versed in the history of Lauryn Hill. I first took notice when you competed on "Showtime at the Apollo." I think you were 12. You wore a blue Fuji-silk Easter Sunday blouse and these "monster" curls. Your knees were thicker than your thighs back then. You lost the talent comp, and rolled your eyes at the audience while Kiki Shephard’s hand hovered above your head. That was the classic "little girl’s way" of handling a dis. They ain’t know.

Marketing your "realness" has helped to cut down on the amount of touring you’ve had to do. You can be mama, get married, continue your nonprofit work. You can even move to Jamaica and become the elusive heroine, like Anita Baker or Sade. Chances are, this is just the tip of the iceberg for you. Keep producing. Keep singing. Keep acting.

This may be a short tangent, but you and Wyclef’s solo success considered, you are all still better together. Solo efforts have shown the world that you truly are the "voice" of the Fugees, Clef truly is the "sound," and Pras should truly get used to being "the third O’Jay." I feel bad that his solo album went double-sperm, but there is a message to be found there. Ghetto superstars the Fugees are not. Regardless, your honesty about the Fugees’ future is appreciated in quotes like the one you gave Time magazine: "We are definitely not broken up, but we need to sit down and see where our heads are."

When you do that, come holler at me, aiight? Khary Kimani Turner covers the hip-hop nation for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]