MTV Unplugged No. 2.0

Jun 12, 2002 at 12:00 am

Unplugged, the re-education of Lauryn Hill, can be described by a hundred adjectives. It’s sincere and overbearing. It’s raw, inspired, emotional and, at times, agonizing. It’s brave and, possibly, foolhardy. It’s self-absorbed and self-effacing, wise and naive.

And, at its core, though she only raps twice (albeit ferociously) on this double CD, it’s true hip hop. That’s its saving grace. It’s when Lauryn Hill sings that she is more hip hop than most rappers. Hip hop is about ingenuity and resourcefulness, about going against the grain, going out on a creative limb. Lauryn Hill fights the power — the business of rap music formats — with every raspy note on MTV Unplugged No. 2.0.

Bob Marley would have called this “sufferer’s music.” It’s meant to be potent, not polished. When Lauryn breaks down and cries on “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind,” it comes off as a war-weary lament, not weakness. Then the second disc opens with a nine-minute testimonial that goes from humorous to cumbersome, yet still invites us to take a rare personal look at her life.

Lauryn Hill doesn’t want to dress up for you anymore. She refuses to spend more time with her career than with her husband and children. Hill doesn’t care what you think about the number of babies she has. She doesn’t want to comb her hair for the camera. And she thinks the music industry is Babylon. Hill’s declared her freedom. And in her world, freedom, like hip hop, is revolutionary.

E-mail Khary Kimani Turner at [email protected].