Lauryn Hill Says She Is Sometimes Late For Shows Because She Cares So Deeply
In the Fall of 2014, Talib Kweli penned an open letter entitled In Defense Of Ms. Hill, and in it he put forth his thoughts on the negative press surrounding Lauryn Hill. As Heads know, Ms. Hill has earned her fair share of disdain from fans for showing up late to her appearances or otherwise performing in ways felt to be subpar or less than what was expected. Such attention once again reared its head in 2014 as Ms. Hill began to perform sporadically after a hiatus – both of personal choice and related to legal matters – from extensive touring. Naturally, fans fervently helped sell out shows to see the former Fugee in person, but as Kweli wrote at the time, some fans just as fervently criticized Ms. Hill’s frequent tardiness. “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,” he argued. In his ever direct way of addressing issues on his mind, he continued with “[s]he 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.”
Today (May 9) – a year and a half later – Ms. Hill’s reputation has once again become the focus of much discussion in Hip-Hop. After reportedly showing up to an appearance in Atlanta, Georgia two hours late, the MC and singer performed for just 40 minutes before leaving the stage, rightfully frustrating the fans who spent the money and time to support her artistic endeavors. The blowback was so strong that Ms. Hill took to her Facebook page to release a statement, and in it she explains her perspective, expresses regret, and perhaps more importantly opens up the space for a conversation about where an artist’s creative license begins and where a fan’s right to a product ends.
Beginning by stating firmly that she has “nothing but love and respect” for her fans, Ms. Hill explains that there exists “a challenge in aligning my energy with the time” to explain why she is late to some of her engagements. In some metaphorical terms, she suggests that what she is providing her fans “isn’t easily classified or contained,” and as such it becomes difficult at times to “make it available for others.” This goes right in line with what Kweli wrote back in 2014 – an artist is creating something intangible, and fans should realize they should not behave as consumers and demand that artists perform and behave as they wish. However, Ms. Hill’s explanations of her “perfectionist tendencies” and her suggestion that fans are not always aware of “what exactly it took to accomplish” her sets have some crying foul. Some argue that her words are condescending, while others argue that she is only speaking in platitudes and not making any attempt to apologize.
For those artists who don’t have a track record of cancelling shows or even appearing to them late, Ms. Hill’s statement may not align with their own views on the artist-fan relationship, or their artistic and creative processes. While, as Kweli pointed out in his piece, artists may “have very different philosophies when it comes to stage performing,” if fans are going to pay to see an artist, they should have some level of expectation of what they are getting in return for their money. In many ways, by giving full transparency into her process and challenges in preparing to perform, Ms. Hill has given fans notice of exactly what to expect from her shows.