Lauryn Hill explains why she put her career on hold -- and why she might be coming back -- in rare interview

Lauryn-HillImage Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty ImagesWhat happened to Lauryn Hill? It’s a question that’s been asked again and again in the last eight years. Hill has yet to follow up her classic 1998 solo debut and underrated 2002 Unplugged set with a second studio album, and she’s given precious few interviews in that time. So kudos are due to NPR’s Zoe Chace for tracking Hill down after her performance at this month’s Harmony Festival and scoring some rare face time with one of music’s most mysterious geniuses.

Asked by Chace why she hasn’t released anything in nearly a decade, Hill actually gave an answer. “There were a number of different reasons,” she’s quoted as saying. “But partly, the support system that I needed was not necessarily in place. There were things about myself, personal-growth things, that I had to go through in order to feel like it was worth it…Oftentimes, I think people are forced [by the music industry] to make decisions prematurely. And then that sound radiates.” That’s a pretty vague explanation, to be sure. But it’s more than we’ve heard from Hill in some time.

More encouraging yet is Hill’s suggestion that she might be moving back toward a fuller performing career. “I have five children,” she told Chace. “The youngest is two now, so she’s old enough that I can leave her for a period of time and know she’s going to be OK… And I think it’s just time. I’m starting to get excited again.”

It’s great to hear those words, even if Hill’s long-suffering fans know better than to get too excited just yet. Check out the full NPR piece and let us know if you’re ready for her to come back.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (92 total) Add your comment
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  • Eshia

    I love Lauryn Hill’s voice. I still listen to her albums (Miseducation & Unplugged) from time to time, and whenever I run across Sister Act 2, I watch it to see her sing. I hope she knows that she still has her fans. I want her to come back when she’s ready, I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.

    • John Perry

      PLEASE, COME BACK!!! Hip Hop and pop music in general is in dire need of a brilliant voice that gives us solace from the crap we listen to on the radio. You are a genius ndeed and we miss you!

    • Khatia

      (ellaBRINX), that was BRILLIANT. Lauryn is definitely byeond her years and I love the fact that she is so humble. There’s a GOD in all of us that can take us to levels we never thought possible, both in our mindsets and actions in life. That’s why when we hear people like that speak we called them deep . Man I needed that. It truly blessed my soul

  • Adam

    Oh, joy! I guess she’s found some more 70’s music to rape and pillage under the guise of creating new music. She’s a joke and a bad singer. Wait, I guess that’s the recipe for hip-hop stardom, though.

    • Terry Salas

      Adam, you have no idea what you talk about. Hill was an oasis in a desert of terrible hip-hop and tired ole bits. She sings, raps, plays a multitude of instruments, has sold over 20 million records, won 5 Grammys, acts and produces and arranges her albums, and her Miseducation cd is widely regarded as one of the best albums of the nineties. What do YOU do besides trolling the internet?

      • Jay

        So…sales figures and awards are all that it takes to be considered a great performer?

      • Adam

        Terry – Well, I used to write reviews for Dirt Culture magazine, I’ve released three CDs and one 7″ with a few of different bands, all with music that I either wrote entirely on my own or co-wrote with other band members (you can’t say you co-wrote a song simply by sampling someone’s songs) and I currently continue to write and perform music. That’s MUSIC, not hip-hop, not entertainment for the dim. I may not sell millions of CDs, but so what. Jay has it right. Who cares how many records she sells? By your logic, Britney Spears, Vanilla Ice, Hannah Montana and Korn are all great talents because they sell a ton of records. ANd do you really trust the mainstream music media to tell you how great an album is? So tell me, wht do YOU do?

      • JBright

        @Adam you could not possibly have any talent as you must be tone deaf if you are unable to listen to Lauren Hill and appreciate her true gift.

      • John Perry

        LOL I knew ADAM’s comments were borne out of jealousy, resentment and envy. Just the fact that he dare compar Hill, a true artist, with the likes of Vanilla Ice and Britney tells me all I need to know.
        Lauryn Hill is the rare artist that creates a gorgeously balanced, perfect amalgam of art and commerce, and this “ADAM” is just having sour grapes. Hill sold in 1998 alone more records than Adam has done in his entire “career” and the closest Adam will get to a Grammy is
        Oh, and saying that HIP HOP is not real music, calling it dim also proves that ADAM is not a true musician…a true artist appreciates and gets nurtured from all genres and styles. LOL!!!! A despondent, bitter, jealous, ignorant, probably racist LOSER who can’t deal with the fact that Lauryn Hill is a grammy-winning, multi-platinum household name, while he toils n obscurity. LMAO!!!!

      • Adam

        Wow. Racist, huh? I guess the fact that I think Eminem and Britney Spears are worthless measn I hate white people? Man, you people on here sure do take stuff personally. And truthfully, a “tur” artist and musician doesn’t have to be nurtured or inspired by every genre or style. It’s called having an opinion, and seeding through the crap to find real inspiration. And no, I’m not jealous. Pointing out that someone sucks doesn’t mean your jealous. Are you jealous of me for something simply because you chose to throw insults at me? ANd once again, what the hell does a Grammy mean? I suppse Milli Vanilli should be considered a great talent, huh? Grammys are a joke. It’s a popularity contest, not an exhibition of appriciation for good, quality music. And if you don’t understand the comparison to Vanilla Ice and Britney Spears, you may be the dumb one here. I’m really not comparing their music, although it is all pap, I was responding to th9is moronic idea that anyone who sells millions of records and wins lame music industry awards is automatically due respect. PLease, think about what you write before you submit it.

      • Ryan

        Lauryn Hill is a household name? Since when? Ask a kid growing up in the mid 00’s and they wont know who Lauryn Hill is. Is she popular among the hip hop crowd? Sure. But that doesnt mean that she’s a household name. U2, Guns N Roses, Barbara Streisand, etc. etc……those are household names that everyone knows about.

        The Grammy awards are a popularity contest. Its essentially saying “My friend jumped off the bridge so I must as well!!!!” Most legitimate musicians that are comfortable in their own skin understand that the Grammy’s is nothing more than an extension of the MTV/E!News culture that’s driven by people who couldnt tell you where the government gets its money from but could tell you the last 8 finalists on American Idol.

        The only people that take the Grammy’s seriously are those that rely on people telling them what to like cause its “cool” and who to be cause its the new hip thing. Bottom line.

      • Brad

        Sounds like you think to much of yourself Adam. You have your idea of REAL music, and we have ours. I think Korn is incredibly talented. I watched him play live on MTV using saws and all kinds of other instuments and explain what he was thinking when he wrote his songs. That is a true artist, he wrote what he wanted, and the fact that many many people like it, does mean it’s good music. Now, crawl back to your nest and leave the public alone, lol. Come on man, it’s music, don’t take it so seriouse, the purpose of music is to move a person, if an artist achieves that, then they are a true artist.

      • MaMaDeuce

        There are some of Us that TRULEY KNOWS WHAT A STRONG TALENTED SISTA YOU ARE… YOUR #1 Fan forever!

    • Adam

      Her true gift is to the lame-ass mainstream music audience that also makes icons out of people like Tupac, Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga. The gift of mindless crap over a catchy beat that’s easy to clean your house to. Yuck. Gift? More like curse?

      • Adam

        I am bitter because Lauryn Hill is a successful mainstream artist, with Grammys, multiplatinum sales, and rave reviews from professional music critics to her name. I, meanwhile, continue toiling in obscurity, and saying things like “Who cares About Records Sales?” when in reality, I do. By the way, my band’s name is Sour Grapes! The new album “Yo, Lauryn Hill sucks!” is out now. Please buy it

      • DGD

        Looks like someone needs exposure to real underground hip-hop like Mos Def, KRS-ONE, MF Doom, Brother Ali, Atmosphere, and the Roots. I agree with John Perry; I am a classically trained pianist and I love hip-hop. A real artists appreciates all true art no matter where it comes from or what genre it is. And Lauryn Hill makes meaningless garbage? Have you even listened to any of her music besides her covers? She makes music about ending violence in urban communities, about combating racism, and about gender equality.

      • Adam

        Writing a post and implying that I wrote it is not cool. I guess taht’s the hip-hop mindset though. But to respond to your stupid remarks, record sales are great for those who deserve them. Peopl who buy Lauryn Hill albums are the same people who buy every other mainstream turd that MTV or Entertainment Weekly tell them, they should buy. If I was signed to a major label I’d be worried about album sales, since that’s the only way you can stay afloat in the business. I’m not on a major label, odn’t care to be. But sure, I’d like to be rich and famous, if it was on my terms. But that wouldn’t make me any more talented of a musician thatn anyone who isn’t rich and famous. Just lucky. And really, Grammys don’t really mean anything. Milli Vanilli won a Grammy. Are they brilliant musicians?

      • Adam

        Actually, I’ve heard most of those people. I guess being on a late-night talk show as the house band constitutes underground status, huh? It doesn’t matter if it’s underground or not. So do you listen to grindcore? NS Black Metal? Noise? Pornogrind? DO you apprticiate all of that art? DO you draw inspiration from skinhead bands?

      • Ryan

        Though I will admit Im not a huge hip hop fan….some of the best hip hop Ive heard are from individuals either on the local scene or from those that have a point to their message except violence, violence, and more violence (See DGD’s post).

        Lauryn Hill’s solo album came about at the right time for current events. The death of 2pac, the O.J. trial, Spike Lee was actually still portrayed as a credible source in the media, etc. etc. etc. If Lauryn Hill’s debut album were released today, it would get lost in the fold. And this is for a whole host of reasons (simply, the music industry has severely changed).

        Lauryn Hill talented? Thats just a perspective. The same goes with people who think that Marilyn Manson or Lady Gaga are brilliant in their own ways. I think there’s enough hypocrisy in this thread to go around.

      • Adam

        Ryan – You make some great points. And as far as what you said about Lauryn Hill being talented or not, you’re right. It’s an opinoin, really. I happen to think she’s a very terrible singer and writer. Of course, the definition of art itself is subjective, is it not? It’s up to me to decide if hip-hop is art. I find it to be a pretty putrid form of entertainment. I can appriciate the message sometimes, but I can get positive messages from something that I find more appealing to my ears. Everything about hip-hop turns me off. Doesn’t mean people should jump in and say that I’m racist or insecure or anything else.

      • Adam

        Grammys are a joke, sales don’t matter, Lauryn Hill sucks. Now I gotta go back to my basement, where I’ll continue creating brilliant music that nobody will ever hear. I hate that Lauryn Hill is a household name that has sold over 20 million records and won 5 Grammys in one night. She sucks anyway, right? Right?

      • Joan

        “I guess that’s the hip hop mindset”??
        Why do you assume that the person who impersonated you even likes hip hop? I don’t care for hp hop in general and I love Lauryn Hill. Can you see why anyone could infer you are racist, by your asinine blanket statement?

      • Adam

        Well, Lauryn Hill is a hip-hop “artist”, is she not? And isn’t it a bit racist to assume taht anyone who doesn’t like hip-hop or Lauryn Hill is racist? I just think the music sucks. It’s more racist for you to assume that my distaste for a certain style of music is born out of racism.

      • Dr.Pleasure

        MILLI VANILLI – THE BEST! It’s not Jock

      • Ish

        Please do not go there regarding Tupac, he is outstanding on so many levels. Your opinion is yours to express, and I respect that, but I do not think it fair to group Tupac with worthless talent.

    • camille

      You obviously don’t know Hip Hop or anything about out culture.Lauryn Hill has a one of kind voice and can captivate any audience, be it a crowd of 100 of 100k… Maybe you need yo go back and listen to her pass albums. The girl got talent and I can’t wait till she get back in the scene. And to the comment about her awards and how much mone she made, it was made possible by all the support she got from fans.. She keeps it real and speaks truth!!!

    • bryan

      oviously u dont know music adam. if you did you would’nt have made that statment. I think lauren hill is a good singer and very talented. If she had to take time of to get her life in order than so be it. I don’t hear anybody talkin about you because if they were im sure i would have heard of you.

    • leona

      wot happened to you? did your moma drop you on your head? Lauryn Hill Is the new of Tina Tunner She is Black, Positive, Beautiful,and amazing. I dont want to scare you but you are the most fabulous peson in the hole world ( apart from my mum ) You are fun, risky, and fun! I hpoe you go the full way!!!!!!!

    • chinaka

      your a idiot and obviously don’t know good music lauryn hill is a great singer and rapper so clean your ears out and listen carefully DUMBASS

  • S.O.

    Well pretty good explanation that she’s been a Mother of 5 children. I respect that she took a long long break & put family 1st.

    • Sally in Chicago

      Nah, it was more than that. She got hung up (seXually) with Marley’s son….I mean REALLY HUNG UP…and couldn’t let him go…obsessive about the man…she cracked up a few times….there are videos of her performances in recent years where she was like Whitney Houston on stage…cracked voice, crazed looking….but she’s probably coming back because she needs the money. They all say “artisty”…but she’s got to get a record contract first and then good management. I don’t think she’s up to it.

  • Mama

    Lauryn Who????

  • Lucca.Ita

    Ready or not, Here I come, You can’t hide…

    • Maureen

      Gonna fiiii-iiind you and take it slowly… ;)

    • Adriana

      This is the Lauryn Hill I came to love. In hindsight, thoguh, I can hear some of the signs that explains why she’s taken the unfortunate route she has. Her feelings that she needs to minister to people, her calls to be righteous’ etc. Her zealotry and the burdens she placed upon herself because of it seemed to really unravel her. It’s interesting to hear her note that if one doesn’t conquer what ails them from within they can’t deal with others. Since this interview, well Anywho, I hope she finds some sense of peace and a bit more humility.

  • Thomas

    Adam – I guess that’s why nobody’s ever heard of you; because you are such a fantastic singer. You ARE the rubbish singer, mate. I don’t care how well-oiled a promotional machine gets if the target audience doesn’t appreciate what you put out, it won’t bite, let alone buy. Why don’t you do something mature for a change like, stay in your mum’s garage where you “put out” your CDs and suck grapes? It just might work for you.

    • Adam

      Maybe I should put a hip-hop group together to tell the struggles of life as a grape-sucking mum’s boy. THen I could do a terrible cover of a not-so-great-to-begin-with 70’s song and be considered a genius. Yo, yo, Killing me Soflty 2010, know what I’m sayin’?

      • luci

        killing me softly wasn’t even on lauryn’s solo cd so if you are going to trash her talents, at least trash her solo effort…oh wait, it was a great cd with a lot of original music and superior writing!

      • Adam

        JAJA! I can’t even tell the Fugees apart from Lauryn Hill! I don’t like Hip Hop cuz it;s for dim people! I’m a muscian that nobody’s heard of…LAURYN HILL MAY BE A MULTI-PLATINUM, GRAMMY WINNING STAR, but she sucks!!

  • pthomas

    I was didsppointed – I read the whole NPR piece she came of very arrogant and inconsistent. At one moment she was talking about her fearlessness and the next the lack of support from the people in the industry. It is too bad I like her music but the interview left me less interested in what she has to say,

    • Ryan

      It shouldn’t be about what she says in interviews perse, it should be about what the substance of her music. This is why garbage like Adam Lambert, Lady GaGa (though she is talented in designer fashion), and Hannah Montana dominate the entertainment industry. In America, its 95% image, 5% actual talent.

      • Emily

        So why is Adam Lambert garbage at least he can sing unlike Gaga and Hannah Montana.

      • nathaniel

        Actually lady Gaga technically speaking is a very capable and talented vocalist

  • andre

    I didn’t discover Lauryn Hill until years after Miseducation came out. Her voice and her music and her lyrics touch the soul. I hope she will give this gift to her many fans when she’s ready!

  • Em

    Please come back Lauren Hill. I have been waiting for you to come back because your music is healing. I was going thru really tough times when your album “misunderstood” dropped. That album, your voice, your words, & your truth helped me get through those hard times. It took me to another place, my own world. Since then I have not found that healing or comfort in anyone elses music.

  • Yvette

    Adam, what type of music and which artist are worthy of your respect? Just curious.

  • Michael

    Okay, let’s settle this. People are entitled to their own opinion.. however opinions don’t mean very much unless the person actually knows what they’re talking about.

    That being said, Adam -you keep bringing up Killing me Softly, as if that’s her only work. It’s not. And you’re acting as if just because Lauryn won awards and sold albums means that she doesn’t have talent. Though rare nowadays, an album can win awards and be good as well. Yeah, some people aren’t going to like her style.. there are a lot of different tastes out there -which I respect.
    However Adam, I’m not even sure you listened to more than one or two of her songs, which is why I’m wondering why you are making so many negative remarks about her.

    And saying she is not talented.. well, that’s where you really lost everyone. Sure you might not like the music, but even I can admit someone is talented even though their music is not my taste. Please.. go look up “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and listen to her voice. If you cannot humble yourself and admit that Lauryn Hill is talented, then your opinion, which you’ve already shown to be lousy through your generalizations (You said – People who buy Lauryn Hill’s albums also buy other MTV crap. Did you really just generalize millions of people? WOW. The last albums I bought were by Nina Simone, Amadou and Mariam, Radiohead, and Bob Dylan.. I haven’t seen MTV in years), will mean absolutely nothing and I think everyone reading can calmly skip over your remarks realizing they are nothing more than a meaningless rant.
    Once you do that, check out her other work. Try listening to an entire album, then check out her Unplugged album.. then check out her unreleased work that people have put on Youtube. THEN you will have an opinion that makes sense.

    • Adam

      Michael don’t pay heeed to what I say. I’m just bitter that I am a nobody and she’s a highly regarded, Grammy-Winning multi-platinum artist. I’m a loser, baby!

    • JussaThought


  • JussaThought

    Adam – So I guess rock ‘n roll isn’t a true music genre since many of those songs were stolen (I’m sorry … remade) from various soul artists in the ’50s and ’60s. You know … “Elvis is a hero to most but he never meant sh*t to me cuz he’s straight up racist … the sucka was simple and plain” – Chuck D.
    Lauryn Hill is talented, and she was popular. They don’t always go hand-in-hand, which is why people want to see her back. Check out Sister Act 2, and listen to the Miseducation album.

    • Adam

      Wow. So much to respond to. That Chuck D quote is really stupid. Elvis always gave credit to the black artists that inspired him. He was not racist. He grew up around black people and accepted their culture and was very influenced by it. He actually opened a lot of doors for black artists that may have eventually been opened by others, but he was the one who actually did it then. So there’s that. I have heard the Unplugged album. Didn’t like it. True, I do keep referencing Killing Me Softly, and I do admit that it’s an EXTREMELY easy target, so you’re right, I should leave it alone.
      By the way, I think you can tell which posts are by me or whoever feels it’s okay to write under someone else’s name. That’s a loser for you.
      Michael – I understand where you’re coming from, but there are a lot of people out there who are supposedly talented and are not. True, it’s all subject to opinion, but really, how talented is Miley Cyrus? Is she talented because her dad says she is. I’m very humble. I just think hip-hop sucks ANd Lauryn Hill falls into that. I’ve heard plenty of hip-hop, believe me, and it never ceases to amaze me how bad most of it really is.
      By the way, I worked in a record store when the first Lauryn Hill came out. Not everyone who buys that stuff is a mindless drone, but believe me, it was on the same shopping list as whatever other mainstream crap was out for a lot of people. I’ve alo owned my own record store, taught recording studio engineering,recorded many different styles of music (yes, that includes hip-hop, as well as metal, punk, jazz, nortena, classical, and alternative) and have written reviews for several publications. SO I do know a thing or two. Whether anyone on here considers my opinion valuable doesn’t mean anything to me. And it really shouldn’t mean too much too any of you what I think. Bt how many of you have worked in the industry? It doesn’t mean that you are an authority if you have, but what gives any of you the authority that you claim I don’t have?

      • D’s Advocate

        @adam: If you had any authority you wouldn’t be belaboring points based on purposefully provocative and inane generalizations. If you were successful at anything you claimed you do you’d know that without offering what you do like you’re contributing to the dullard pablum. I think he hates Lauryn Hill because she’s an Ivy League graduate and he was stupid enough to own a record store when her album came out. Really,owning a record store in 2002?? There’s having your finger on the pulse!! I guess ROFLMAO is 4 years too soon for you.

      • JussaThought

        Adam – You keep putting out your credentials as if anyone cares. As a matter of fact, it makes your critiques seem even more idiotic because her music was SO DIFFERENT than a lot of the other stuff that was out during that time. The interesting thing is that most people agree that there was a lot of bad music out during that time. Lauryn’s album wasn’t a part of that bad music. She could actually sing, which is more than can be said for many of today’s stars or even those back then.

        About Elvis – the Chuck D quote was illustrative. WAY before Chuck D, I never got Elvis. He wasn’t half as talented as his soul contemporaries, but he became a star. If it’s about talent, which is what you seem to believe, why is Elvis famous? He WAS simple and plain.

        Finally – you don’t need to work in the industry or to have recorded 7 styles of music to know good music. The world is filled with people with knowledge who don’t actually know anything. My authority is as a discerning consumer that enjoys hearing people with talent. I don’t know you from a can of paint, but you come off as a pompous know-it-all.

  • Adam

    I’m just bitter because Lauryn didn’t sign my photo back in 1998. I only bash her out of love. Also, I hate myself.

  • bigmike

    Adam is such a tool.

    • Ade

      You actually meant to say Adam is a FOOOOOOOOOOL Right?

  • Reginald

    Music is art, and art imitates life. The music changes with the people. What was great then is rarely great now. I would say to any musician, artist, singer, songwriter, producer; what makes your music so great? Is it because it’s your story, your testimony?

    • b

      Adam was not loved as a child. And he is full of hate! Yuck

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