Rewinding the Charts: In 1998, Lauryn Hill’s ‘Doo Wop’ Debuted at the Top
Before turning her back on fame, the Fugees singer-songwriter went straight to No. 1 with the first single from her 1998 solo LP.
In 1998, Lauryn Hill, then 23, debuted at No. 1 on the Nov. 14 Billboard Hot 100 with “Doo Wop (That Thing),” the lead single from the hip-hop singer-songwriter’s debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. At the time, it was only the 10th song to bow atop the chart. (Nineteen more singles have since managed that feat.)
The piano-and horn-accented “Doo Wop,” in which Hill sings and raps, was a self-respect anthem, a warning against succumbing to the pitfalls of “that thing,” whether it be sex, money or the streets.
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The hit followed a successful run for Hill as one-third of the Fugees, who topped the Billboard 200 in 1996 with sophomore album The Score and scored a No. 1 Pop Songs airplay hit with a reworking of Roberta Flack‘s ’70s Hot 100-topper “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (simply titled “Killing Me Softly”).
Miseducation, which also housed the Hot 100 hits “Ex-Factor” and “Everything Is Everything,” spent four weeks atop the Billboard 200. The set won five Grammy Awards in 1999, including the first-ever album of the year honor for a hip-hop project. Hill’s debut has sold 7.5 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music.
Hill retreated from the spotlight in 2000, citing her struggle with fame, but returned to the Billboard 200 in 2002 with the No. 3-peaking MTV Unplugged 2.0, an album that also drew attention for her between-song tirades.
Now a mother of six children — five fathered by Bob Marley’s son Rohan Marley — Hill lives in South Orange, N.J. In 2013 she spent three months in a federal prison for tax evasion. She occasionally performs live and appeared at the Bonnaroo and Coachella festivals in 2014. The folllowing year, she embarked on her most extensive project since Miseducation as she contributed six songs to the soundtrack of What Happened, Miss Simone?, a Netflix biographical documentary of Nina Simone.