Beyond Miseducation: Lauryn Hill's Great Guest Appearances

Submitted by notoriousclassics on Tue, 05/25/2021 - 15:38
Lauryn Hill in 2019

Most Lauryn Hill fans bemoan the dearth of material we’ve received from her over the years: one classic album, one troubled live record and a smattering of songs here and there. She’s not invisible - she still tours - but her choice of expression seems to be focused on live performance and the occasional guest or “featured” appearance.

There’s gold to be found in those collaborations: the guest verses; the classy, sassy vocal hooks; the productions she facilitates and oversees. Here are five examples of that gold, from background to front-and-center performances. Regardless of where she is in the mix, she’s still Lauryn Hill, and she’s still magnificent.

Nas feat. Lauryn Hill, "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)": Nas’ poetry and flow are hard-boiled; Hill’s vocal is the perfect contrast - wordless on the verses, then carrying the hook on the choruses. She brings beauty to the song and makes the happy ending Nas’ protagonist imagines for himself and his family seem reachable.

Wyclef Jean feat. Celia Cruz, Jeni Fujita and Lauryn Hill, "Guantanamera": Clef’s The Carnival mined a host of Latin influences and brought the Fugee a double-platinum certification as a result. Here, he boosts a Cuban folk song as the foundation for a tale of a powerful seductress - he extolls her virtues in the first verse; Hill tells you how it really is in the second.

John Legend feat. Lauryn Hill, "So High (Cloud 9 Remix)": In its initial form, “So High” was the typical John Legend ballad - immaculately produced, impeccably sung, its climax a heavenly concoction. Drop a beat behind that and yield the first verse to Hill, and it’s something altogether different - a banger that brings the heavenly back down to earth. It’s still impeccable, though.

Method Man feat. Lauryn Hill, "Say": True, Hill only gets the chorus and some background affirmations in the verses, but to hear these two on the same record makes you feel good, makes you want to hear more.

Aretha Franklin, “A Rose is Still a Rose”: Hill wrote and produced this, and while she sings background and incorporates that unexpected Edie Brickell hook (“What I Am”), her real presence is felt in the production. It had been a long while since the Queen of Soul had sounded this contemporary, this regal. Hill understood this and understood how to put Franklin in the absolute best surroundings. A whole album like this would have been outstanding; alas, this song - this great, great song - will have to suffice.