Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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.