In celebration of women's history month, we're spotlighting 31 great female MCs over 31 days.
Hip-hop is a tough game in which only the best survive. From the early days of the male-dominated genre, female rappers have proved that women, though few in numbers, are fearless, strong especially when unified and are not only capable of standing as tall as the next man but also of outshining them.
Many female rhymers, from Queen Latifah to Nicki Minaj, have destroyed the proverbial glass ceiling to become legends in their own right. In celebration of women's history month, we're spotlighting 31 of the greatest female rappers of all time over a 31-day series, kicking off with an interview with MC Lyte. Come back each day in March for a new profile.
Day 31: Lauryn Hill
There's no moment quite like when listening Lauryn Hill's vocal prowess on the Fugees' "Killing Me Softly." Every listen takes your breath away. Longtime collaborator, Pras, describes each moment as an awakening. While we patiently wait for a new effort from Ms. Hill, and as she overcomes adversaries and allegations, we bittersweetly listen to her past work as a member of the Fugees and her classic album, "The Miseducation" of Lauryn Hill." Read on as Pras shares memories of the singer-songwriter.
Pras: "I met Lauryn Hill back in 1988/89. My mom had me go live with my uncle to get a better education in the suburbs than in the hood. I met this girl named Marcy. This is the story about the Fugees: I had this vision of me in theses two girl. I still have this vision. Marcy told me, 'I know this girl. She might be a little younger than us.' I was a sophomore at the time. She says, 'She's still in the eighth grade.' I said, 'Eight grade? Cot damn.' She's like, 'But no, you have to meet this girl. She just came off the Apollo but don't hold that against her.' She didn't win the Apollo. Back in those days, when something came on television you had to catch it in that moment. So she thought I saw the Apollo, I hadn't. I was like, 'Don't worry about it.' I went to a part of Jersey where she lived [and] met her."
"She was this young girl. She had this innocence about her, but it was genuine. You can tell she was a beast; She was that girl that was emerged with talent. She wasn't rapping back then. She didn't even know how to rap. She was just a singer. She had all this knowledge."
"After I met her, right on the spot I decided, 'She's the one right there. Let's make it happen.' She said, 'I love the opportunity but before I can say yes, I would like for you to meet my mom and her dad.' I think she was only 11-years-old. I got it. Her parents were very welcoming. I told her parents, 'I'm going to make your daughter a star.' I felt like it was magic."
The Making of "Blunted on Reality"
"We were young kids. We didn't know what the fuck we were doing. We felt like we wanted to do something that can inspire people. It came from the love of the art. I grew up listening to pop-rock because that's what my mom let us listen openly. I was familiar with soul but I didn't listen. That, soul, I learned from Lauryn Hill. If you went to her house, she had a room full of vinyls of classic soul music. When we got to making the first album, I felt like I was back in school. She gave me this new appreciation for music. We were all learning from each other. The first album [was] eh. But the experience was great. We were able to build incredible showmanship."
The Making of "The Score"
"'The Score' [is] probably one of the most incredible experiences [of] my life. It was hateful, it was happiness, it was sadness, it was bitterness, it was lust… it was everything. Summer of '95 was considered a record breaking summer in New York; One of the hottest summer in New York. You mix that with us being so broke… It was hard to just find $1.75 to buy fried rice. When we'd get a little bit of extra money we'd go to Kentucky Fried Chicken and get some biscuits; That was our highlight. Lauryn Hill lived in the suburbs. She'd drive her mom's car to come get us. We all believed: 'This is gonna pop!' But you don't know, you just had to believe."
"Killing Me Softly"
"You know how you'll find something but it doesn't necessarily mean you discovered it? I heard her sing it for the first in the studio, but I never truly heard her sing it until two or three experiences. There's been two or three experiences in my life and it sounded differently [each time]. It's like seeing or hearing something and your third eye opens."
"I'll put it like this: Adam and Eve, from the bible, were running around the Garden of Eden naked. They didn't know they were naked until they ate the food of knowledge; Some interpret that as the first time they had sex. They were naked all this time. That's what happened when I really first heard her sing it. I became aware. I remember standing on the stage, playing the keys and she sung the first line. I was like, 'Oh my God. That's what that is?' I felt that each time, but there are moments [where] it was more heightened then others."
"One day, she came to a show two hours late. We were in Eden [Park]. London don't play that shit. The crowd was pissed. There was 200,000 people pissed. The crowd was looking at us like, 'You fucking clowns.' That girl started singing 'Killing Me Softly'? By the end of the show, it was Kumbaya. Everyone was happy. Life was beautiful. It was that impactful."
"Ready Or Not"
"At one point, the group had disbanded. She had left the group at this point and we didn't know what we were going to do. She calls me and says, 'Listen, I'm going to come down to the studio and I'm going to lay down a reference for you guys, a hook. I give you permission to use my hook, my voice, but I don't want to be a part of this group anymore.' I said, 'Fair enough. No problem.' She said, 'Make sure certain people are not around when I'm there.' I said, 'No problem.' She's laying the reference for 'Ready Or Not' and then she goes into the bridge and she's crying. I see her crying. She stops and says, 'I can't do this anymore,' and leaves. A couple months later she re-joins the group. She said, 'Let's do 'Ready or Not' again 'cause I was crying. It was emotional.' She goes in the studio to do 'Ready Or Not' again. She was in there five hours doing the hook. Every hit is incredible. But we go back and say, 'There's something about that reference. I don't know if we can touch that.' We end up keeping the reference. That's what the world has come to hear. There's something about that record… That's magic."
"Things were just happening: One minute we were broken up [then] the next minute we were back together. It was 'Was I stupid for leaving college?' It was 'Where's my future? What happens when it doesn't work?' It was 'Should I go back to school and figure out my life?'"
"Here's the thing, we were on the road. Back in the day record companies put you on the road and said, 'Go figure it out.' We were so poor so we had to share a room together. So imagine three individuals in one room for most of the year. It was that… It was a combination of a lot of things. You want to make your parents proud. Then you had elements of outsiders trying to divide what we had. [There were] people who wanted to make themselves more important. I was always trying to keep peace 'cause I was looking at the bigger picture. I knew there was magic there. But, there are elements in life that you can't control."
"When you capture a moment that brought a form of euphoria to everyone, you want to keep that but then there are unforeseen variables that get in that you can't control. Without having to talk to them, I know they all feel the same way. Sometimes you go to a place you can't return to."
"The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill"
"I'd stop by her house or her in the studio. I heard bits and pieces, then I heard the final produce before it came out, before it was deliver dot record company. It was different from The Fugees, it was a departure but more a distinction. It was incredible. I could't believe what I was hearing."
"A lot of artists need whatever it is that they need to [create]. Lauryn Hill needs love. And, love doesn't necessarily romantic love. She needs to be inspired. She's inspired by love."
"Her best is right around the corner. I don't even think she's tapped into what she's [capable of]. She's tapped into maybe only 30% of her. I witnessed it."