“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin.
Those words have rung true for thousands of years, and they can be understood by everyone. Regardless of where you were born, your occupation, or how much money you make, those two events will be a factor in every life. When we think about death we all conceive an end of life, but taxes are not necessarily the end. I repeat not necessarily! Everyone pays taxes in one form or another every day of our lives, like property taxes, automobile taxes, tangible and intangible taxes and yes, income taxes. The income taxes are more likely to spell trouble for us than any other. It certainly has been the biggest problem for our featured artist this week: Lauryn Hill.
Like many of her fans I was saddened to hear of her tax problems and incarceration early last month. Unlike many of the other media outlets, I chose to wait a while before offering a commentary about the issue. I thought that instead of examining in detail how Lauryn Hill got into trouble, I would examine what comes next in her musical career after this ordeal. Therefore, I think we should go back to her beginnings and subsequent musical accomplishments to speculate upon what might be next; if this will be the death of her career after taxes.
I think back to the first time I took notice of Ms. Hill. It was the Whoopi Goldberg sequel film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit where she played the character Rita Louise Watson, a Catholic School teen with a rebellious attitude. My entire family noticed her vocal abilities and wondered where this young lady had been hiding. By the final musical rendition of Joyful, Joyful with Hill leading the choir, I realized we would be hearing a lot more from this young lady. I was right. It turns out as we were viewing Sister Act 2; Hill was working with a musical group that would become known worldwide: The Fugees. Along with Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean, The Fugees blend of African American and Caribbean Music would gain popularity among music fans and critics alike. The Fugees second album, The Score, peaked at number one and stayed in the top ten of Billboard 200 for over half the year. The Score also won a Grammy for best rap album. But in 1997 The Fugees split to work on solo projects. At the end of 1997 Lauryn Hill would start to record one of the greatest albums of all time entitled The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The title was inspired by The Mis-Education of the Negro book by Carter G. Woodson and The Education of Sonny Carson, a film and autobiographical novel.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill propelled Ms. Hill to superstar status. While working on the album Lauryn Hill was pregnant with the first of her six children to date. Hill’s pregnancy revived her from a period of writer’s block; she would later comment, “When some women are pregnant, their hair and their nails grow, but for me it was my mind and ability to create. I had the desire to write in a capacity that I hadn’t done in a while.” However, then came the year 2000 and Lauryn Hill’s much publicized decision to remove herself from public life. Why did she do it? There are several ideas expressed by those close to her at the time and others not so close. I think the words of Lauryn Hill are best if we really want to know her reasons. Notice what she said four years ago in an interview with Essence Magazine:
“For two or three years I was away from all social interaction. There was no music. There was no television. It was a very introspective and complicated time because I had to really confront my fears and master every demonic thought about inferiority, about insecurity or the fear of being Black, young and gifted in this Western culture. It took a considerable amount of courage, faith and risk to gain the confidence to be myself. I had to deal with folks who weren’t happy about that. I was a young woman with an evolved mind who was not afraid of her beauty or her sexuality. For some people that’s uncomfortable. They didn’t understand how female and strong work together. Or young and wise. Or Black and divine”.
I think for now what I want to know is after all the experiences good, bad and indifferent, what can we expect from Ms. Hill now? Well, she did give us live performances as recent as last year. Most likely she will give us more live performances. She also still actively writes new music. In fact, she released her first official single in over ten years on May 4, 2013 “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)”. Following a deal with Sony Music, which involves Hill creating a new record label within the company, Hill is scheduled to publish her first album in fifteen years during 2013. She is scheduled to be released from prison after serving a three month sentence in October 2013. As far as Lauryn Hill’s musical career is concerned, she should appear to us a wiser person who better understands her creative self. There may very well be musical life after taxes. I hope so!