Whilst icing my knee and minding my own business on Saturday evening, I was scrolling my Twitter timeline and saw radio and TV political analyst Roland S. Martin go on yet another rant. This time it was about Lauryn Hill and her antics. In the event you haven’t heard, Ms. Hill is known for being habitually late for shows. I’ve heard tales of her showing up as many as three hours late for a show. That is unacceptable.
I will say that initially I agreed with him that she has absolutely no right to be that unprofessional and inconsiderate of her fans. She put out one (classic) album in 1998 and 13 years later, she is holding people hostage. But then, Martin hauled off and Tweeted:
“@rolandsmartin: Folks saying Lauryn’s Miseducation album meant so much to the generation. It ain’t Stevie’s Songs in the Key of Life!”
OK, so, lets examine his statement(s). He also went on to name MJ’s “Off the Wall,” Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” as classic albums in which Hill’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” didn’t compare. Call me crazy, but, Martin is wrong on this and I’ll tell you why. A classic album is one that stands the test of time. It speaks to the issues of the day but will ALWAYS be relevant. It serves as a career defining moment for the artist and in some way speaks directly to the people of that day. Every single one of the aforementioned albums is all of those things and more.
I’m not in any way, shape, form or fashion saying that Marvin, Stevie, Prince or MJ’s albums didn’t influence or define their generations, because they did. I’m simply adding that Hill’s did, too. From the singles, “Lost Ones,” “Doo Wop (That Thing),” “Everything is Everything” and “Ex-Factor” to the unreleased gems “Nothing Even Matters,” “Every Ghetto, Every City,” and “To Zion,” Hill hit the ground running. You’d be hard pressed to find someone between 25-40 who can’t identify with those songs.
The majority of the songs dealt with relationships and to me, not losing yourself in them. In 1998, there weren’t any wars America was fighting other than the things we’ve grown accustomed to like drugs and poverty. We were doing well. Clinton was president, everyone was working so it was a time to be working on ourselves and our personal relationships. That was all up and through that album.
In “Lost Ones,” Hill’s words helped to show how folks can try to make a fool of you by treating you as if you know nothing, but it is your responsibility to remain true to yourself and show them what you do know. With “Doo Wop (That Thing),” she issued a warning to men and women to “watch out” for both men and women. Never before in our generation had someone spoken about the dangers, yes, dangers, of dating so candidly. And let’s get into how “Ex-Factor” is STILL in heavy rotation on Urban/Adult Contemporary radio stations. On the days I listen to radio, I hear it at least once a day and that is NO exaggeration.
I could go through all her songs, but I don’t want this post to get too long, but to say this album didn’t strike a chord or in any way influence or define this generation is a misstatement of epic proportions. Wikipedia says Martin is 42. That is not old, but I’d say he missed this generation by a couple years.
He was around to hear and buy the actual albums of Stevie Wonder, Prince, MJ and Marvin when they were still pressed on wax. Quite frankly, I don’t think he can relate to it the way some of us can. That’s not a shot at him, what it is though is suggestion that he take a step back and realize the world was a different place when each of those albums came out and none of them should be compared to each other. Comparing “The Miseducation …” to “Songs in the Key of Life” or “What’s Going On” or “Purple Rain” or “Off the Wall” is like comparing apples to oranges. They’re all classics but for different reasons just as an apple and an orange are both fruit but different kinds of fruit.
To his original rant of waiting for hours to see an artist, I agree, it is very unprofessional and disrespectful for Hill or any other artist to keep their audience waiting. And to answer a question he posed later as to which artist (Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin or Janet Jackson) I’d wait three hours to see, I answer, not a single damn one. The only person I’d wait that long to see is Jesus.
Martin steps on his soapbox on Twitter (and TV and radio) to rant and rave (loudly) not letting folks get a word in edgewise. Somewhere in life, he got in his head that the loudest person wins the argument regardless of whether or not they have a point. I could be wrong, but that’s what he gives off. I am not intimidated. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong and Saturday night, he was wrong. As two left shoes.
So, Mr. Martin, a journalist I admire, I say this in the most respectful way I know how – go somewhere, anywhere and #sitchoassdown.