Talib Kweli and Lauryn Hill were peers in the late-’90s conscious-rap boom, but even before either one of them ever got on as a rapper, they were college friends. And in a new essay, Kweli writes about knowing Hill, watching her grow into megastardom and make classic records. He also writes about the time she’s been away from fans, retreating into motherhood and sometimes giving indulgent, wandering live shows. Kweli seems to be motivated by the writer Stefan Schumacher’s article “It’s Finally Time To Stop Caring About Lauryn Hill: I Used To Love Her. I Don’t Anymore.” Kweli’s point, in the article, is that artists are not jukeboxes, and that they don’t have to adhere to their fans’ idea of what they should be. They don’t owe you, the listener, anything. It’s a persuasive argument. Here’s an excerpt:
When you pay for a Lauryn Hill concert you are not paying for her to do what you want, you are paying for her to do what she wants. She is not an iPod nor is she a trained monkey. She doesn’t have to do her hits and she doesn’t have to do the songs the way you want to hear them. She doesn’t owe you that. The world does not revolve around you, and you ain’t gotta like it. Get over yourself. If you have a negative experience at her concert, go home, put on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and the next time she does come through your town, don’t go to her concert. Problem solved. Just because you had a negative experience at a Lauryn Hill show doesn’t mean her contribution to the world is invalid or deserves to be disrespected.
In Schumacher’s incredibly self-absorbed takedown of Ms. Hill he describes her as “an artist who hasn’t produced anything of relevance in the last two decades.” Because of this $88 is too much of a ticket price, even though he goes through pains to explain that he isn’t broke. I wonder how much Rolling Stones tickets are going for these days? What was their last “relevant” hit? I’ve never seen the Stones, but I hear the show ain’t what it used to be. How good could it be? Those guys are senior citizens. I went to see Mötley Crüe this summer. Fun show, I was on the list, but tickets were being sold for over $200.
Schumacher writes like a stalker. Actual quote from his piece, “What’s she doing with her time? How many kids does she have? Is she broke? Will she return to her former glory?” I’m like, dude. Fall back. Get out her business and her pocket. Don’t be a creep. She doesn’t owe you, or any of us, this information.
Schumacher describes himself as part of Ms. Hill’s dedicated fans. I call bullshit. Ms. Hill’s dedicated fans accept her for who she is, they don’t write hit pieces about how she is no longer a good artist because she isn’t what they want her to be. Lauryn’s greatness does not diminish because of lack of commercial output. A “dedicated” fan would never suggest something so disrespectful.
New life goal: Go see Mötley Crüe with Talib Kweli. Read the whole piece at Medium.