She begat this. Oh, really?

Do we really need to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lauryn Hill’s debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill?

Apparently, we do.

Not because of the album is acclaimed, having hit number one on the Billboard 200 immediately upon release and having week one sales topping 420,000 and breaking the record for female artists of all genres. not because within one year, Hill’s Miseducation had gone platinum eight times, securing ten Grammy nomination and five wins. Not because Hill’s style was and is elusive to some and creative genius to others.

But celebration, for many in the entertainment ecosystem—producers, entertainers, critics, emcees, journalists, etc.—is arguably due to Hill and Miseducation twenty years later because it was and remains “influential.”

For people outside of this spectrum, the fact of Hill’s domination may be far-reaching until they read She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Joan Morgan.

With the trusted research and style of a great journalist, Morgan’s presentation of in “She Begat This” is crisp and poignant.

In short, Morgan details the legacy of the then 22-year-old artist who “ushered in a new school of goddesses,” was intellectual and hard to replicate.

She uses terms like “fascinating Blackness,” “intersecting identities,” and “wizardry” to describe Hill—even calling her a muse of Black thought and versatility. “Aesthetically (she) was absolutely critical to us,” Morgan writes. She explains how the conscious, sexy, deeply heretical rapper-artist shifted culture using her dexterity as a wordsmith.(Hill studied English at Columbia University.)

Readers with a nebulous recollection of the debut will find it striking that Morgan not only presents Hill’s influence but also validates her as the intersectional genesis —begator, if you will—of the very best form of Hip-Hop. Nevertheless, Morgan details Hill’s contributions beyond music and all the perils.

The Mis-education of Lauryn Hill was political, intersectional revolution, autonomous. “She gave this generation permission to be a warrior one day and mystical the next,” Morgan writes. Her shape-shifting of Black hair, gave “us” the permission to be intellect, fashionista, and love rap, Morgan posits. “She was our Pinterest.”

In this 4-star book, Morgan proves Hill and/or The Miseducation album:
– was unboxed and affirmed on a large scale
– represents all our contradictions
– was never fully centric
– rocked the party and gave you something to think about
– later made a defiant choice on how she would do motherhood
– was an early prototype of BlackGirlMagic and we owe her

What Hill may have begotten most effectively, however, was the feminist boldness that’s very much energized today that will “grant yourself permission to be what you’re to be even when you don’t see it.” And, Hill has done so in and out of hip-hop.

“Think about it for a minute,” Morgan writes. “Lauryn Hill was a twenty-three-year-old girl who bared her soul and made a stellar, grown ass woman album.”

“I think people also forget what the climate was like when Miseducation came out. While writing this book, I had to go back and look at how we were being represented in the late ‘90s,” Morgan writes from a dialogue with Beverly Bond, founder of Black Girls Rock who Morgan calls a keeper of Black girl legacies. “It was really a hard time to be a woman in hip-hop or one who loved hip hop. We needed Lauryn so badly. We needed the win.”

To that Bond says, “Lauryn Hill is our generation’s Nina Simone. She’s our Nina.”

Commendable writing, Ms. Morgan.

Candace J. Semien, @JozefSyndicate
#JozefBookandBrew
@NetGalleyReview

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