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Lauryn Hill
[ unplugged ]

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UNPLUGGED (2002)
Unplugged - Click to view! Lauryn Hill has grown up right before our eyes, bringing us incredible depth and fashionable hip-hop, first with The Fugees and then as a solo artist. Hill has been known for her incredibly powerful voice, soul-stinging lyrics and in her later years, much controversy. She killed us softly back in 1996. She warned us about that thing in '98. She reintroduced us to Bob Marley just two years ago. Now she is bringing us a new message, one so powerful it had to be kept under wraps. She hasn't delivered an album in over four years, but now hip-hop diva Lauryn Hill emerges again in unexpected fashion to tell the world: "It's freedom time."

Lauryn Hill Unplugged is a collection of new songs that literally document Hill's life over the past four years. She says during one of the album's many interludes, "These songs are about me first." Indeed they are. We listen with baited breath as the former Fugee exorcises past demons with her guitar and words of enlightenment. She speaks directly to the traps of life that had "made her a prisoner" in "Mr. Intentional." The record's first song logs in at seven minutes. In fact, only a handful of Hill's songs are less than five minutes on this double disc, with more than 100 minutes of music and testimony.

Testify she does. Lauryn Hill is giving us an intimate window into her world, her head and her heart. "I Find It Hard To Say" was originally intended as a response to the shooting of Amadou Diallo in New York. However, it is calmly explained to us that the song transformed itself into one that serves as a marking post for a radical change in Hill's life. She moves from her visions of humanity ("Adam Lives In Theory," "Oh Jerusalem") to her new perspective on life in "Just Like Water" and "Just Want You Around." These songs are direct responses to God's tug on this young lady's life. She freely opens up to the crowd about how she has given up trying to maintain a pristine public persona and simply live her life as God would intend. The first disc ends with the nine minute tune "I Gotta Find Peace of Mind." Her passionate cry is absolutely moving as she weeps when singing of the "wonderful, merciful God."

As the second disc opens, Hill regains her composure and builds on her message for people to "free their minds" from a world system that oppresses their individuality. She continues on for twelve minutes, taking every opportunity to direct the focus back to God. Using the analogy of the American Justice system, Lauryn breaks into one of only two hip-hop verses in "Mystery of Iniquity." Hill proves to everyone that she can still rap, dubbing herself a "hip-hop folk singer," as she brings the house down with a scorching hot verse chastising corrupt messages portrayed by popular society. From there we see her reggae influence with "I Get Out," inspired by Ziggy Marley with a very personal Lauryn Hill musical stamp. As the album winds down, Hill's voice gradually worsens. She misses notes altogether as she struggles to finish.

However, Hill will be the first to tell you that she doesn't mind. This is not a musician's project. Instead, it is a revelation to the masses of life lessons from one who has learned many of them the hard way. She admits that she is through trying to front, evidenced by the many missed notes and the occasional restarting of songs. This is real life and Lauryn Hill has been sent to encourage us to live it again. Just like those in the audience, this record will mean something different to everyone who listens. The testimony of her life that has been touched by God will serve as a great encouragement to many. This album is a must, not simply for musical enjoyment but as food for the soul.

Note: This album contains one mild profanity and the use of the phrase 'O My God' used in context of describing a relationship. Discernment must be used for all those who might consider this offensive.
- Jon Corbin
July 2002
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