Life As An Art Form

Quips & Commentaries in Prose and Poetry

 

It’s funny how money change a situation

While we sat eagerly awaiting our Lauryn Hill, the lights dimmed and our eyes were directed to a vintage, albeit inexpensive, white film screen, that was placed unevenly at the foot of the stage. What’s going on? Where is Lauryn Hill? Isn’t there supposed to be an opening act, I wondered? Isn’t there a local artist, a rising child star, or a comedian to move the crowd while we waited for our beloved star? Instead, a projector rolled and the 2014 Sundance film documentary Concerning Violence began to play. Though Ms. Hill hadn’t yet arrived onstage, her pre-recorded voice provided the narration for the film.

 “Miscommunication leads to confrontation”

Though I had never heard of the film produced by Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson, I was familiar with some of the text from the essay of the same name, “Concerning Violence”, written by Frantz Fanon in his Wretched of the Earth, an anti-colonial text. Used as the context for portraying the violence leading up to the African liberation movements of the 1960s-1970s, Ms. Hill’s narration of the film was a befitting way to reacquaint her fans with who she has always been, to remind them of some of what has always mattered to her. It was not entirely surprising that she would use this venue, given the captive audience, to advocate on matters of social justice and human rights in a more dynamic and thought-provoking discussion. Ultimately, she indirectly challenged what we consider entertainment. Does art at its best, challenge listeners and viewers to probe beyond cover art, catch-phrases, and hypnotic beats?

“L’s been this way since creation”

I cherished seeing Ms. Lauryn Hill, a recently announced national treasure by the U.S. Library of Congress. After what seemed like an indefinite hiatus to fans, the announcement that Ms. Hill would perform for her Small Axe Performance Series had me more than a little stoked. While Ms. Hill has garnered wide commercial success, I always admired her for her refusal to conform to industry’s expectations.  Ms. Hill made it clear, both on and off record, that she was not willing to acquiesce to an industry model of entertainment that would only stifle her freedom as an artist. Though the media would prefer the convenient characterization of Ms. Hill as crazy, true fans like me, have always known otherwise.

Ms. Hill’s decision to show this particular film to her fans was telling.  This was less about promoting her body of work, and more about framing the urgency of present-day concerns as they relate to being Black in America. Clearly, this performance was not going to be standard fare for curious concertgoers or even diehard fans, but an invitation for deeper contemplation by both.

My emancipation don’t fit your equation”

Ms. Hill’s narration registered more as an appeal to her fans–affectionately referred to as ‘comrades’–to consider understanding the current problem of race and the systemic devaluation of Black lives. She implied the question, “how might we get from beneath the complex layers and construction of colonization which finds us still reeling from its effects?”

Although steeped in Hip Hop, a genre oftentimes harshly criticized for misogyny and violence, Ms. Lauryn Hill unleashed a Nina Simonesque freedom-fighter teaching while remaining convincingly rooted in Hip-Hop, spitting lyrics that flowed like water, sans cypher.

She was unapologetic as a wholly affected Black woman artist refusing to separate herself from the current context of race and Black Rage in America.

Ms. Lauryn Hill is a courageous example of how one can fuse art with personal convictions and experiences. For example, whether she is dropping truth to a group of inquisitive yet idealistic college students, or narrating a film for an award-winning documentary, Ms. Hill’s brand of truth-telling continues to rebel against the posturing and neutrality that has become normative of the entertainment industry.

“I was hopeless now I’m on Hope road”

Lauryn helped us, her fans, to go beyond convenience and trivial responses to complex problems. Ms. Hill knowingly risks disrupting relationships and the status quo by saying what she means, when others dare not. She undoubtedly will make others uneasy as she challenges us to get out of our metaphorical boxes.

Ms. Lauryn Hill eloquently penned War In The Mind, while bellowing “It’s Freedom Time … Get free, Be who you’re supposed to be!”

Who are you supposed to be?

Finding Ms. Lauryn Hill’s Lost Ones was worth the wait, even if it was a decade in the making.

Credits:

Italicized lyrics – “Lost Ones“, Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Photo Credit: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

New Entries to National Recording Registry

The Wretched Earth PDF

Berlinale 2014: Goran Hugo Olsson on Concerning Violence

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© SomerEmpress and Life As An Art Form, [2010 – 2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SomerEmpress (Avril Somerville) and Life As An Art Form with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

14 thoughts on “Finding Ms. Lauryn Hill’s Lost Ones

  1. L-Boogie the TRUTH! I have all of her music. She performs with such passion. She beautiful from head to toe…but she’s intelligent as well. She is the ideal black woman in my opinion. A great example for young sistas out there. I don’t appreciate how the media tried to make her seem “crazy”. I know how the racist media operates. It’s good to see Lauryn back on top. I love that girl. And I can’t relate to black people that don’t like her. They are mentally tripping.lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Emmy says:

    I’m sorry I missed this post, as it was absolutely lovely! We attend a dance performance every year put on by friends – they are pros (some have danced with Beyoncé and other stars) but they always add in some social commentary pieces – I appreciate that these performers are willing to put things like this in another context for us – using their power to make people think. Great post.

    Also love the new design of the site – very readable!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SomerEmpress says:

      Hey Emmy! Sooo good to see you! No problems on missing the post. It’s always right on time, I say. 😉 I think performers make themselves that much more human when they share this part of themselves, whether we agree with their views or not. Gets us into their brain for a spell. I like to know what my favorite artists think. Leaving me with something to think about- though that is not the goal of my going to their shows- is always a bonus. Again, thanks for reading, and always, it’s great to see you lady!

      Like

    2. SomerEmpress says:

      P.S. I’m glad you’re digging my newly renovated blog home. Make yourself comfortable as you prepare for some mind-stimulating conversations. Grab your coffee, or wine, depending on what time of day it is of course!

      Like

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