Updated: Jul 5
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a classic album by anyone’s standards. This timeless
artistic work was released on the 25th of August 1998 and displays an immaculate fusion of
neo-soul, R&B, hip-hop, reggae and gospel music that goes beyond what most hip-hop artists have ever accomplished. The album opens with a scene of a school setting as though you are entering a classroom with a teacher and other students, and rightfully so.
Miseducation is, amongst other things, an empowering feminist piece. With the 21st anniversary of this incomparable piece of musical artwork coinciding with Women’s Month, it is only fitting we discuss some of the lessons Ms. Hill offered us as women through her own personal experiences as expressed in this album, and that’s exactly what we will do over the course of the next two articles. In this article, we will discuss the main theme of the album - love - and what that means for us as women.
The overarching theme of the album is love. Various songs describe love, allude to its various forms and that it can be both joyful and difficult. Whilst Ms. Hill predominantly discusses romantic love, she is quick to remind us not to sacrifice ourselves or our power for romantic love, or for money, for power or anything else. Loving ourselves isn’t always an easy thing to do, but it should always be characterised by respect, devotion and genuineness, ‘cause, baby gurl, those are just minimums.
Various things, including the trauma and mental illnesses we develop, drive our behaviour. But whether we are driven into darkness or light is fundamentally a matter of choice and while the choice is harder to make for some than others, it's ultimately us who decide how to live. Ms. Hill alludes to how we come to limit ourselves by behaving primarily as sexual commodities or otherwise minimising or oversimplifying ourselves in terms of our careers, relationships, the roles women are expected to play, by adhering to traditional beauty standards and feeding into and off of consumerism and materialism. We limit ourselves by not loving ourselves. By pinning our value to exogenous things over which we have no control, we forfeit our power and, in effect, contribute to our own marginalisation and the war on our own bodies; most concerningly, on our minds. We can’t win when we ain’t right within. Ms. Lauryn reminds us to be careful what we cling to and to be the queens and gems the Creator made us to be, and the first step to doing so is to cling to (self-) love. We can and should be as bold, authentic and multifaceted as we were made to be.
Our potential is limitless and that’s how we should live. We should love and embrace all the different aspects of ourselves and our lives as women, and especially the autonomy to define what that means for ourselves. It is through self-love that we empower ourselves to transform negatives into positive narratives and images. All the answers we need are inside of us and it is up to us to define our own destinies. If we lack self-love, we are nothing at all.
By loving ourselves, we cannot fail.
By Naledi Hopa