The Defamation and Assassination of Ms. Lauryn Hill

I helped kill Lauryn Hill, and I regret it. In truth, we all let her die, even as she fights for her life, we simply are allowing one of our most prolific people to be eaten by a system she has tirelessly attempted to fight with her weapon of choice, a voice.

Though most of us will never understand her movements, her soul is parallel to those who have chosen to die on their feet rather than live on their knees. Unlike most of us, who prefer a good beat, a good piece of ass, a great weave and a promotion, and we’re good, the path she has taken is not for the weak-minded or weak-spirited. Lauryn lives a bipolor existence — on one hand, she is adored like a Goddess — and on the other she is perpetually defamed.

When I heard that little punkass kid from Mindless Behavior tell the most crass joke at the BET Awards regarding Lauryn Hill’s tax issues with the IRS and the looming possibility of her serving time for admitting to not filing, I turned off BET, a station I had sworn years ago not to watch.

And though the crowd booed, I couldn’t believe how BET kept that rank comment, or the writers even wrote that tasteless piece of bullshit. I know that, that overly greased kid didn’t understand how much he spat on a shoulder that carried him, but for BET to place that jab on a pubescent, greasy haired, overly boyscaped creature was punkass in itself. (Shout out to Beyonce for attempting to correct the wrong. And another fuck you to the management of Mindless Behavior [appropriate name] for not vetting the tweet that called her a ‘girl’ in their apology)

Ironically, just a few years ago, BET was begging Lauryn Hill to perform on its stage, as Talib Kweli points out in his ode to Lauryn in “Ms. Hill”.

When I heard Lauryn might be incarcerated for past taxes this week, I was floored. It is an eerie reminiscent of something we have seen before. Not talking about Wesley Snipes—though he is rolled into the political, social trappings of articulating humanity on his own terms; I am thinking more about Marcus Garvey, who was jailed and deported for frivolous charges of mail fraud, or Muhammad Ali, who was imprisoned for refusing to fight in Vietnam.

It is disgusting how so many, and let’s start with the music industry, revere Lauryn’s work like spiritual tomes, yet are mum to come to her aid, or support her. The statement is simple, “Lauryn is right.” The industry is a vampire, and subsists on the blood of artists who are sacrificed on stage, in studios, on video shoots, and at contract signings.

For years I defended Lauryn, listened to her music, and never wavered from my steadfast loyalty and support for a black woman who was attempting to be free and live on her own terms under a rubric that simply does not allow folk to grow and evolve.

I held on to my sister, and the legacy she left, that is still light-years ahead of hip hop, pop, and the music industry. Lauryn used her platform to enlighten, empower, and heal; yet she, didn’t even understand the depths of the power she flexed and the people she still touches with the soul of her essence.

She went against the Pope. Nuff said. When CNN would not even put a 20 second sound bite that exposed the sex scandal still rocking the Catholic church to the Protestant church, Lauryn sang her revolution at the Vatican.

For the record, Obama would not dare, but he’s a politician right, who must move with the savvy of a refined leader. Hmph.

Lauryn represents a mainstream black artist who is damn near extinct. Like Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horne, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, she took notes from history and used her voice for social issues and Civil Rights.

Unfortunately, she does not have a circle of contemporaries who stand with her, unflinchingly. She has a crew of cowards, who fled when their money was threatened and the threat of them losing favor in the industry began to magnify.

Nonetheless, Lauryn Hill is transparent in a journey we all have to take, in the painful search for love. Evident in an on-and-off again abusive relationship with the father of most, or all of her children, Rohan Marley, Lauryn illuminates that she bleeds like all of us, and does dumb shit.

And while Lauryn looks at the possibility of being jailed and making arrangements for the care of her children, Rohan Marley is planning his third marriage.

We all have questions through the years of Lauryn’s silence. Answers we must all have to come up with ourselves. Though I have heard of her struggles with labels, for me, it was much deeper. Her punishment is for the fact that she did not give certain institutions access to her innermost sanctum, her soul.

They did not have access to her children, her relationships, nor her creative process. She, in all her black woman glory, told them what they could listen to, and how they could listen. For that, the only thing they could plug on her was from a past, bitter lover, who once had access to her being.

Rather than explain the complexities of an entangled love affair, of which both sides did dirt, Wyclef Jean did what most immature, jilted ex-lovers do, and in particular when it comes to pointing the finger at the woman, he claimed Lauryn was simply “crazy.”

Ahhh, how easy is that. To write someone off as a crazy and insane.

As Dave Chappelle brilliantly pointed out after his hiatus of Hollywood’s manipulative, demeaning, and sadistic culture, when they call you crazy it is a “dismissive” tactic that is used to discredit and silence the very credible and intellectually astute articulations of people who were willing to speak out against a machine that has consumed and spit out prophets and activists, and simply good folk who could not be exploited any longer.

And as I watched a cable station I have long abhorred for its narrow content and coonery leanings, I witnessed another blow to a sister who may not be a saint, but definitely is being crucified.