Friday, July 21, 2006

Ms. Lauryn Hill in SC

This is the Lauryn Hill I choose to remember, not the alien clone currently performing at a club near you

I didn't go to see Ms. Lauryn Hill in Santa Cruz on July 15. I couldn't go due to personal reasons, but in reality I couldn't bear to watch.

Press credentials were a no go. "Ms. Hill has asked that no press be put on the guest list," read the e-mail response. The booking agent was apologetic, but it's understandable. I was more bugged out that he referred to her in the e-mail as Ms. Hill (I've read stories that she insists on being called this by everyone; the marquee outside The Catalyst, where she performed, read "Ms. Lauryn Hill").

And so it wasn't meant to be. I didn't have the $50 to spare a ticket, and aside from that, a prior engagement prevented me from commiting to the one-off show even if I did come out the pocket.

But really, it was the apprehension from a previous show, about five years ago that left me quite traumatized (I'll get to this in a minute). The memory of that debacle prevented me from putting aside everything, plunking down half a c-note and watching one of my former idols give a surprise performance in Santa Cruz, of all places.

Performing in SC made sense. The grandfather of Hill's children, the late great Bob Marley - Hill has three kids from Marley's son, Khymani (edit: a more informed reader corrected me on this point; Hill has four sons from Rohan Marley; no excuses, my bad, y'all) used to visit SC when he toured the states. Prior to the SC shows, Hill did two spots in San Francisco, also last-minute dates in a small venue.

San Jose Mercury News music writer Brad Kava gave glowing review of the show. You can read all about it here.As good a writer as Kava is, I don't know him personally, so I can't say I'm with him on the account. His review reads like someone who is viewing Hill from a differed point of view. His is the view of someone who is only semi-acquainted with hip-hop and, more importantly, the impact Hill had on the culture.

My boy Demone, a homie from San Jose who knows what hip-hop tastes like, gave me the real run down.

"Dude, it sucked," he told me over the phone. I believe him.

He reported, much like Kava, that Hill was two hours late, pissing off the crowd to no end. There was no opening act, no dj, just a bunch of fans sitting around, waiting for the performance of a lifetime.

When she did come out, she was directing the band like they were practicing. Demone described the sound as "ska versions" of her music. That does not sound good to me at all.

And then, she veered off into foreign territory. She did a rendition of "Do You Know The Way to San Jose." Demone left at that point.

"I couldn't stand for it anymore," he said.

Which brings me to my last experience with Hill, five years ago, during the Smoking Grooves Tour. Hill was one of the co-headliners. There was a band set up and it looked like she might do some live stuff.

I was hype. Hill was my favorite MC at that time. Note, not female MC, or east coast mc, but MC period. I just thought she was the best at her craft in the whole entire world.

Then, she came on stage carrying a guitar. And she started playing and singing. For 45 minutes.

It was agonizing.

They say for most artists, performing is like therapy, only cheaper. Hill exercised her demons, playing the same four chords while shrieking at the top of her lungs about her poor sap life and love dramas.

It wasn't that the singing was bad, or that she didn't know the chords. It was the fact that she felt she could get away with doing some half-finished acoustic songs and her true fans wouldn't realize what was going on. It was the fact that she thought people wouldn't notice that none of the music had any sort of transition. I can't play a guitar note to save my life, but I can tell when someone is strumming the same chord for an hour.

What really got to me was that the crowd ate it up. It was a mostly white, college age audience. They cheered for her like she was playing something new and exciting. I knew better.

My opinion on Ms. Hill was forever jilted.

So hearing my homie's unsavory review made me glad I didn't waste my money to watch my former favorite MC fall further from grace. The artist formerly known as Lauryn Hill is all but dead to me. I just can't bear to watch it.


Anonymous said...

Another ego bites the dust! Wycleff never would have pulled this kind of shit!

lov101 said...

I was At this concert in SC It really wasn't bad at all. It was a reheasal of some sort not like she was on a world tour or anything. She performed some of her classic joints as well as some new material. I think she's still a great artist her voice was very strong the band sounded great she infused Funk,Hip Hop,Jazz,R&B and Reagae right in front of our eyes. This guy that wrote this article doesn't know what he's talking about. What it is, is there's a general public opinion about this woman and everything she does gets lambasted in press, it's just a band wagon of hatered. This guy says he's a fan and that she was idol but be doesn't know that she has four kids not three with Rohan Marley not Khymani.

stop hateing !!!!

Bart said...

I have a very diffirent music choice.

Marc Cabrera said...

@ lov101.
Thanks for the correction, I have noted it in the body of the blog post. I need to do a better job of fact checking.
The point of this article was to vent my frustration as a former fan of Ms. Hill. Yes, I indeed was once a fan, but reading Mr. Kava's review and then hearing the recount from my buddy confirmed my belief that Ms. Hill is incapable of achieving her past glory.
Although I glossed over a fact in my piece, do not misconstrue my feelings as simple hateration (geez, I can't believe I just tried to pass that off as a verb). Ms. Hill, in my opinion, turned her back on her fans a long time ago. Don't get it twisted.

Anonymous said...

I think that you all should realize that Lauryn Hill is a true artist, and she's just changing her music. She's not compromising for the sake of commercialism. To me, she is true music and she's taking her fans to another level :Reggae,Ska, Funk, Jazz. I love it all.
Go Ms Hill !

Anonymous said...

Yup! I remember that day when we went to Somekin' Groves together!! She sucked !! sing about "we got to have a Redemtion!!' Made my ears bleed and my head go mad!!