On November 14, 1998, Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. With its cautionary message set to a contagiously catchy tune, Hill’s song made Billboard history as the first debut single to premiere at No. 1. Additionally, Hill became the first woman since Debbie Gibson to have a No. 1 song that she wrote, produced and sang herself. The song’s immediate breakout success helped make her debut album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” a critical and commercial success, selling more than 19 million copies worldwide and earning Hill five Grammys, three American Music Awards, a Billboard Award, a Soul Train Award, and an MTV Music Award. Aside from garnering commercial and critical fame, the album introduced a new audience to the joys and struggles of black feminist women.
Coming from a musical New Jersey-based family, Hill tapped into her musical talent at a young age. By the time she was a freshman in high school, Hill joined Prakazrel “Pras” Michel and Wyclef Jean to form the music group Tranzlator Crew, later renamed to The Fugees. The group became famous for their 1996 album, “The Score,” and the hit single, “Killing Me Softly.” The album sold 17 million albums, making it one of the best-selling rap albums in history. It also won two Grammy awards.
Hill’s debut solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” took the late 1990s music world by storm. With an inventive mix of soul and reggae, the album revolutionized the hip-hop sound. Additionally, Hill broke boundaries in her lyrics by sharing her feelings about love, sex and loss as a black woman. She was inspired to write the album after falling in love with Bob Marley’s son, Rohan, and giving birth to their first child, Zion.
In her lead single, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” she cautions young women and men about the dangers of mistaking materialism and sexual objectification for love with empowering lines like, “Girlfriend, let me break it down for you again/You know I only say it cause I’m truly genuine/Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem/Baby girl, respect is just a minimum.” The sound and message of “Doo Wop,” set the tone for the rest of her boundary-breaking album, with her two other hit singles, “Ex-Factor” and “Everything Is Everything.”
After the success of the album, Hill, who now likes to be addressed as Ms. Lauryn Hill, decided to live a more private life, with occasional performances.