Born: May 26, 1975
Place of Birth: East Orange, NJ
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Career and Life
Lauryn Noelle Hill is a singer, songwriter and rapper, known for being a member of Fugees, and for her solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which won many awards and broke several sales records. Her mother, Valerie Hill was an English teacher and her father Mal Hill a computer and management consultant. She has one older brother named Malaney who was born in 1972. Her Baptist family moved to New York and Newark for short periods before settling in South Orange, New Jersey.
Hill has said of her musically oriented family: "there were so many records, so much music constantly being played. My mother played piano, my father sang, and we were always surrounded in music."Her father sang in local nightclubs and at weddings. While growing up, Hill frequently listened to Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight; years later she recalled playing Marvin Gaye's What's Going On repeatedly until she fell asleep to it.
In middle school, Lauryn Hill performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a basketball game. Due to its popularity, subsequent games featured a recording of her rendition. In 1988, Hill appeared as an Amateur Night contestant on It's Showtime at the Apollo. She sang her own version of the Smokey Robinson track "Who's Lovin' You", garnering an initially harsh reaction from the crowd. She persevered through the performance, however she later cried off-stage.
Hill attended Columbia High School, where she was a member of the track team, cheerleading squad and was a classmate of actor Zach Braff. She also took violin lessons, went to dance class, and founded the school's gospel choir. Academically, she took advanced placement classes and received primarily 'A' grades. School officials recognized her as a leader among the student body. Later recalling her education, Hill commented, "I had a love for—I don't know if it was necessarily for academics, more than it just was for achieving, period. If it was academics, if it was sports, if it was music, if it was dance, whatever it was, I was always driven to do a lot in whatever field or whatever area I was focusing on at the moment."
While a freshman in high school, through mutual friends, Prakazrel "Pras" Michel approached Hill about a music group he was creating. Hill and Pras began under the name Tranzlator Crew. They came up with this name because they wanted to rhyme in different languages. Another female vocalist was soon replaced by Michel's cousin, multi-instrumentalist Wyclef Jean. The group began performing in local showcases and high school talent shows. Hill was initially only a singer, but then learned to rap too; instead of modeling herself on female rappers like Salt-N-Pepa and MC Lyte, she preferred male rappers like Ice Cube and developed her flow from listening to them. Hill later said, "I remember doing my homework in the bathroom stalls of hip-hop clubs."
While growing up, Hill took acting lessons in Manhattan. She began her acting career in 1991 appearing with Jean in Club XII, MC Lyte's Off-Broadway hip-hop rendering of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. While the play was not a success, an agent noticed her. Later that year, Hill began appearing on the soap opera As the World Turns in a recurring role as troubled teenager Kira Johnson. She subsequently co-starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg in the 1993 release Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, playing Rita Louise Watson, an inner-city Catholic school teenager with a surly, rebellious attitude. In it, she performed the songs "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" (a duet with Tanya Blount) and "Joyful, Joyful". Director Bill Duke credited Hill with improvising a rap in a scene: "None of that was scripted. That was all Lauryn. She was amazing." Critic Roger Ebert called her "the girl with the big joyful voice", although he thought her talent was wasted, while Rolling Stone said she "performed marvelously against type ... in the otherwise perfunctory [film]." Hill also appeared in Steven Soderbergh's 1993 motion picture King of the Hill, in a minor but pivotal role as a 1930s gum-popping elevator operator. Soderbergh biographer Jason Wood described her as supplying one of the warmest scenes in the film. Hill graduated from Columbia High School in 1993.
Hill began singing with her music-oriented family during her childhood. In high school, Hill was approached by Pras Michel for a band he started, which his friend, Wyclef Jean, soon joined. They renamed themselves the Fugees and released the albums Blunted on Reality (1994), and the Grammy Award–winning The Score (1996), which sold six million copies in the U.S. Hill rose to prominence with her African-American and Caribbean music influences, her rapping and singing, and her rendition of the hit "Killing Me Softly". Her tumultuous romantic relationship with Jean led to the split of the band in 1997, after which she began to focus on solo projects.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) remains Hill's only solo studio album. It received critical acclaim showcasing a representation of life and relationships and locating a contemporary voice within the neo soul genre. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and has sold approximately eight million copies there. This included the singles "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (also a number one), "Ex-Factor" (became her biggest solo hit in UK), and "Everything Is Everything". At the 41st Grammy Awards, the record earned her five awards, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist. During this time, she won several other awards and became a common sight on the cover of magazines.
Soon afterward, Hill dropped out of the public eye, dissatisfied with the music industry and suffering with the pressures of fame. Her last full-length recording, the new-material live album MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002), sharply divided critics and sold poorly compared to her first album and work with the Fugees. Hill's subsequent activity, which includes the release of a few songs and occasional festival appearances, has been sporadic. Her behavior has sometimes caused audience dissatisfaction; a reunion with her former group did not last long. Her music and public statements have become critical of pop culture and societal institutions. Hill has six children, five of them with Rohan Marley. In 2012 she pleaded guilty to tax evasion and served a three-month prison sentence the following year.