The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was released 20 years ago to widespread critical acclaim and cemented both the album and Ms. Lauryn Hill as cultural landmarks in the world of music. Hill’s only solo album, recorded after her departure from infamous hip-hop and neo-soul band The Fugees, is an unmatched blend of hip-hop, R&B, and neo-soul. The album won Hill ten nominations and five wins at the 41st annual Grammy Awards, making her the first woman to receive that many nominations and wins in a single night, and since its release, has gone on to sell over 19-million copies worldwide.
It would be no exaggeration to say that with the release of a single album, Hill established herself as a lasting cultural icon who will likely serve as a source of inspiration for a host of artists for many years to come. So, in honor of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill still sounding phenomenal and groundbreaking 20 years later, we present to you six artists who embody the musical ingenuity that Ms. Lauryn Hill exudes to this day.
Thematically and sonically, Hill never shied away from portraying the realities of life as an African-American woman. In a similar vein, Chicago-based artist Fatimah Warner, better known as Noname, creates music that derives heavily from the African-American tradition, while at the same time authentically portraying the experiences associated with its accompanying genres. The final result is a poignant and beautiful sonic journey that takes from gospel, soul, spoken word, jazz, and hip-hop to stunning effect. It’s fusion done perfectly right and then some. One needs to look no further than Noname’s debut mixtape, Telefone, for definitive proof that this is an artist who excels in delivering profound bouts of rapid-fire lyricism wrapped within powerfully moving feats of instrumentation.
19-year-old Ravyn Lenae may be the youngest on this list but she is by no means even remotely outshined by her cohorts. The neo-soul wunderkind hailing from Chicago makes the sort of music that only compounds the surprising sense of wonderment one gets when considering an artist of this age is responsible for such raw talent. Simply put, this music is timeless. It’s the sort of rare creation that sounds like a classic despite having just been released. For a prime example of this wondrous phenomenon, take one listen to Lenae’s Crush EP. The critically acclaimed EP that has been on repeat since I first hit play, sees Lenae joining forces with fellow Ones To Watch wunderkind Steve Lacy for 16 minutes of some of the most striking state-of-the-art soul in existence.
Lakisha Kimberly Robinson, otherwise known as Kilo Kish, is a much sought after Brooklyn-based artist who exists within and shines in a range of genres. Whether it be working alongside the Gorillaz, Donald Glover, The Internet, Chet Faker, touring alongside Vince Staples or delving into the realm of experimental hip-hop, art pop, new wave, or neo-psychedelia, Kish is time and time again an artist who proves she cannot be placed in a sole, easily defined space. Indeed, even her endeavors as an artist expand past the world of music. Kish’s latest album, Reflections in Real Time, is a highly personal sonic exploration of media and technology that was complimented by performance art installations and self-directed films. Kish is truly an artist in every sense of the word.
It’s no surprise Sabrina Claudio lists Hill amongst her many R&B influences. Where Hill utilizes the inherent emotional power underlying R&B to deliver commanding blends of hip-hop and R&B, Claudio utilizes the inherent sensuality underlying the genre to draw the listener completely into her world. The Miami-born, half-Cuban and half Puerto-Rican artist, merges music elements from not only R&B but jazz, electronica, and her Latin roots as well to weave together a beautifully intricate tapestry of silky smooth, genre-meshing R&B bliss. The artist’s debut full-length About Time is the perfect embodiment of this phenomenon, as Claudio presents an idyllic dreamscape in the form of 12 tantalizing songs.
There’s a lot to be said of Jorja Smith, the 20-year-old British artist from Walsall, West Midlands. The young artist earned two much-applauded features on Drake’s More Life mixtape, was the recipient of 2018 Brit Critic’s Choice Awards, and has received comparisons to both Ms. Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse. The latter comparisons likely playing a large part in Smith’s early series of successes, as she beautifully transforms the economic and political issues that proliferated her upbringing into spellbinding works of neo-soul. And while Smith’s miraculous talent for creating moving works of neo-soul is arguably her sharpest tool, the singer is by no means limited, as “On My Mind” with grime artist Preditah proves that Smith is a talent with a multi-faceted toolset.
Hill’s music was informed by the world at large, and Amber Mark’s smooth blend of soul and R&B is very much informed by her international upbringing. Spending her time traveling to and living in such far-off places as India, Germany, Brazil, and India, there’s a worldly sense of musicality that permeates Mark’s work. The artist’s debut project, 3:33, is the sonic personification of this international background, utilizing tropical-sounding club beats and a wide array of not often heard instrumentation. The connective tissue underlying this international sense of musical inventiveness is Mark’s velvety smooth yet powerful vocals that give every track on 3:33 its trademark Amber Mark sound. Plus, if you need further convincing to check out Amber Mark, I hear she puts on one hell of a show.