The Truth Behind Robert Glasper’s Claims That Lauryn Hill ‘Stole’ ‘The Miseducation’
Lauryn Hill may have won the hearts of millions when she released The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill back in 1998. But Robert Glasper claims the singer wasn’t the gifted mastermind the music industry made her out to be after all.
During a radio interview with 97.9 in Houston, the Grammy Award-winning pianist set the record straight, claiming the troubled singer was a diva who couldn’t even tune her own instruments, let alone construct a studio-length album. “She likes to take credit so she can become this super person,” Glasper told the radio station. “If you’re that talented, then do it again. She couldn’t tune her guitar at rehearsal. She’d say [to my friend] Benji ‘Guitar,’ and he would run and tune it.’”
Hill’s superstar potential came from her on-screen debut in the 1993 film, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, as Rita, the misguided teen with an angelic voice. She was relatable as an around the way girl with an edge. She was able to capitalize on her likability as part of the ‘90s hip-hop trio The Fugees, alongside Prakazrel “Pras” Michael and Wyclef Jean. The group would only release two albums, Blunted on Reality and the multiplatinum album, The Score, both of which credit the singer as vocalist, producer and arranger. Hill, being a powerful force in a male-dominated industry – where women are still fighting for equality today – and her star in the industry didn’t go unnoticed; particularly with her rendition of the Charles Fox/Norman Gimbel-penned classic “Killing Me Softly,” the group’s most successful single. The group disbanded not long after, and Hill began laying down the blueprint for her solo career.
Hill recruited the group, New Ark Entertainment (Vada Nobles, Rasheem Pugh, Tejumold Newton and Johari Newton) a set of beatmakers-songwriters, to help her create what would be known as her only studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Once the album was completed, they were credited as performers, producers or contributors of “additional music or lyrics,” with all 14 songs being “produced, written and arranged” by a then 23-year-old Hill. She was also listed as the album’s executive producer.
The group filed a federal suit against Hill, her management team and her label (Columbia Records) in November 1998, claiming she “used their songs and production skills but failed to properly credit them for their work.” They claimed that they were the primary songwriters for "Nothing Even Matters" and "Everything is Everything," and made significant contributions to six other songs on the album, making them deserving of full or partial credit due to them on five tracks.
So, did the singer hog all the album credits? Hill denied the claim but the answer isn’t so black and white.
According to an article by Salon in 2000, “the ongoing commercial domination of sample-heavy genres like hip-hop and electronica, the questions of what constitutes a song, and who deserves credit for songwriting, have never been more complicated.” The article goes on to say, “Most artists make a distinction between a composition of a song and the recording – the interpretation of that composition.” The line between song and recording are blurred, more so now than ever.
Miseducation has gone platinum around the world, including 8x platinum in the US, and 3x platinum in the UK, The album has been called one of the greatest of all time by the likes of a plethora of music bibles including The Source, Rolling Stone and Spin. Most importantly, 20 years after the release, it is still the bestselling album by a female rapper, a feat within itself, given that many women rappers are discredited for their work with claims that they don't write their own lyrics, or only achieve success under the direction of their male counterparts. But the album's legacy is also tarnished by claims of an oversized ego and greed. Was Hill the victim in a money-hungry scandal or was she a fame-obsessed narcissist? Glasper seems to have the answer twenty years later. “You haven’t done enough to be the way you are,” he said. “The one thing you did that was great; you didn’t do. She took the credit from making the classic album. Those songs were written by other people, and they did not get their credit.”