Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Less than a handful of artists emerge from each generation, whose combination of musical talents seems unbelievable, like Marvin Gaye’s vocal range and songwriting ability or Prince’s mastery of instruments and command over an audience. Well, in 1998 there was growing anticipation for a Jersey Girl who had left no obstacle unconquered on her quest for musical dominance.
We witnessed L-Boogie’s melodic lyricism steal the show from Pras and Wyclef on “Vocab” and “Mona Lisa” from the Fugees’ Blunted on Reality LP (1994). With The Score (1996) we saw her step center stage after receiving personal acclaim for her stand-out performances on the group’s debut project. Hill landed a coveted Hip Hop Quotable in The Source magazine for “How Many Mics” and on the same LP delivered a remarkable rendition of Roberta Flack’s 1973 classic “Killing Me Softly.”
I’m sure amongst her peers it must have seemed unfair that someone in the conversation of top 10 lyricists could also be in a separate debate for most talented vocalist, but with her debut, the generation raised on hip-hop music received the gift of our era’s unbelievably talented artist.
With an all-star supporting cast of musicians including; James Poyser, Dean Frasier, Carlos Santana, and D’Angelo, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill fused hip-hop, reggae, soul, funk, R&B , rock, and just about any other genre of music to concoct an eclectic stew like we never knew even existed.
Ms. Hill’s masterpiece of a debut LP led her to run the table at about every awards ceremony after the mania that erupted upon the release of the album ensued. Two decades later the name Lauryn Hill is used as a metaphor by emcees and more broadly, as a synonym for royalty.
The Miseducation was balanced, fluid, thought-provoking, and as soulful as music fans had ever witnessed. Unbelievably, with her freshman attempt, Lauryn Hill created the perfect album, with its only shortcoming surfacing in hindsight after its release, as she never delivered a worthy follow-up.