Accessibility links


00:00:02 OPRAH WINFREY: "Hattie Mae, this child is gifted," and I heard that enough that I started to believe it.

00:00:08 ROGER BANNISTER: If you have the opportunity, not a perfect opportunity, and you don't take it, you may never have another chance.

00:00:14 LAURYN HILL: It all was so clear. It was just, like, the picture started to form itself.

00:00:19 DESMOND TUTU: There was no way in which a lie could prevail over the truth, darkness over light, death over life.

00:00:32 CAROL BURNETT (quoting CARRIE HAMILTON): “Every day I wake up and decide, today I'm going to love my life. Decide.”

00:00:35 JOHNNY CASH: My advice is, if they're going to break your leg once when you go in that place, stay out of there.

00:00:40 JAMES MICHENER: And then along come these differential experiences that you don't look for, you don't plan for, but boy, you’d better not miss them.

00:00:53 MUSIC: SUPERSTAR

00:00:53 Yo hip hop, started out in the heart

Uh-huh, yo

Now everybody tryin’ to chart

Say what?

00:00:59 ALICE WINKLER: This is What It Takes from the Academy of Achievement. I’m Alice Winkler. In the mid-1990s, this voice arrived like a revelation to a whole generation coming of age as the millennium was about to turn.

00:01:16 MUSIC: SUPERSTAR

00:01:16 Come on baby light my fire

Everything you drop is so tired

Music is supposed to inspire

How come we ain't gettin’ no higher?

00:01:37 ALICE WINKLER: The voice, Lauryn Hill’s, was powerful, deeply soulful, with a perfect dose of grit. Miss Hill fluidly switched between rapping and singing. She was stylish and beautiful — which never hurts — but more than that, she had beautiful things to say, and funny things, and profound, political things. But, of course, it’s always hard to put a finger on exactly why a particular artist and a particular cultural moment collide in some kind of harmonic convergence to become a phenomenon, but Lauryn Hill was a phenomenon, and she was just 23.

00:02:18 MUSIC: SUPERSTAR

00:02:18 I cross sands in distant lands

Made plans with the sheiks

Why you beef with freaks as my album sales peak?

All I wanted was to sell like five hundred

And be a ghetto superstar since my first album, Blunted

I used to work at Foot Locker

They fired me and fronted

Or I quitted, now I spit it — however do you want it?

Now you get it!

Writing rhymes, in the range, with the frames

Lightly tinted

Then send it to your block

To have my full name cemented

(Lauryn Hill)

And if your lines sound like mine

I'm taking a percentage

(Ka-ching!)

Unprecedented and still respected when it's finished

I'm serious

00:02:51 ALICE WINKLER: Then just as quickly as she’d risen to international superstardom, Lauryn Hill backed out of the music business, out of public life, shut it down. She was like the J.D. Salinger of hip hop, but at 25, soon after her retreat began, Miss Hill was inducted into the Academy of Achievement and made a rare appearance to speak to a group of students at their annual Summit. She was also interviewed for their archive by journalist Gail Eichenthal.

00:03:21 In the past couple of years, Lauryn Hill has begun to resurface, some, and she’s gone through big transformations, but in this episode of What It Takes, you’ll hear Lauryn Hill as she was undergoing an earlier transformation. It was June of 2000, just two years after the release of her first and only solo studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. So sit back and enjoy the music and the words of a truly original artist, at the crossroads.

00:03:53 LAURYN HILL: I’ll be very honest with you. As a musician today, I’m not in the studio right now, and everybody in my world thinks I’m crazy. "What’s going on? You need another album out. You know, the time is running out. You have a window, a certain window to make music!" And for a little while I listened to that, and I was, like, in the studio working real hard trying to get it done. And, you know, music was created, definitely music that I think people will appreciate, but it wasn’t my best, and it wasn’t my best because there was no substance.

00:04:26 And there was no substance because there was no experience, and the only reason why The Miseducation was the album it was, was because of a myriad of experiences that took place before the production part, before the creation.

00:04:39 MUSIC: EX-FACTOR

00:04:41 I keep letting you back in

How can I explain myself?

As painful as this thing has been

I just can't be with no one else

See I know what we've got to do

You let go, and I'll let go too

00:05:15 LAURYN HILL: I mean, my whole life, at a certain point, was studio, hotel, stage, hotel, stage, studio, stage, hotel, studio, stage, you know. And — you know, and I was expressing everything from my past. You know, you have to go back to the well in order to give someone something to drink, you know. I felt like a cistern, dried up and like there was nothing more, you know.

00:05:42 And it was so beautiful because... normalcy. I returned to a normal situation, with my children running around, screaming, and it was wonderful! And I walked down the street, and I went grocery shopping, and I loved it. Every minute of it I love.

00:06:07 I find, you know, even when it’s raining, I just go outside, and I look outside, and I’m just so blessed to see it and to experience it because for such a long time I was just indoors.

00:06:17 MUSIC: EX-FACTOR

00:06:17 There for me, there for me

Said you'd be there for me

Cry for me, cry for me

You said you'd die for me

Give to me, give to me

Why won't you live for me

Care for me, care for me

00:06:28 Life is peaks and valleys, and some people think that that — some people explain that as good times, bad times, but I actually think it’s learning, or let’s say, learning mastership. Learning mastership, okay? Or study mastership. Study mastership. Now, right — I went from the top of one mountain. I mastered something.

00:06:50 I had mastered something, and people appreciated it, but you know, once you’re on top of that mountain, you have to go this way, but in hip hop, everybody’s like, "I’m not moving. I’m the master. I’m great. I’m dope. I’m hot. I’m here. I’ve arrived. I’m not going anywhere." And that’s when you stay stuck on top of one — on one hill, one mountain, when God’s intention is that we study and master a bunch of different things.

00:07:14 And so here I am descending this hill, and everybody’s like, "Where’re you going? You know, we — we're supposed to be on the top of the hill." But it’s exciting times. It’s definitely an exciting time for me because I’m at the foot of another hill. So, I would just encourage everybody, never be afraid of not knowing. Never be afraid of not knowing. Find out, because that’s how you get to mastership. Let’s not be mediocre in our greatness. You know what I mean? Like, think big. Think big.

00:07:50 ALICE WINKLER: I want to take you through some of the experiences that set Lauryn Hill on the path that got her to where she was in 2000 when she spoke these words. Lauryn Hill grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, a diverse middle-class suburb near Newark, that taught her an openness to different cultures, something you can certainly hear in her music. She was steeped, she said, in the Jewish community, the Asian community, the West Indian community, the Cuban community.

00:08:20 Her father was a computer consultant, and her mother a teacher. “Failure in school was not an option,” she said, so she did well academically but got just as much of an education from her environment and from her family. As she spoke to students at the Academy of Achievement event, one of them asked her what her mother did that gave her so much self-confidence.

00:08:44 LAURYN HILL: Oh, let me not even say that. My mother is standing — she's right there, and I was going to say, "The belt!" No, I’m only kidding.

00:08:49 No, it's not — I'm only kidding. I'm only, only kidding. Honest, I’m joking.

00:08:58 Every time I say that, my mother thinks that I make her look so bad, but it — no, there was just — you know, a friend of mine put it this way. My mother used to make me sandwiches, and not physical sandwiches, but spiritual sandwiches, okay? She would give me bread, and the bread was encouragement and love, and then the meat was the correction, okay?

00:09:23 And then there was another piece of bread, which was the encouragement and the love. So that worked, you see? She just dealt with me in truth at all times. Well, no, no, no, no. Wait! Let me go back. Wait a minute. That’s not true because there was this one time — do you guys remember those plastic shoes, jellies?

00:09:40 Listen, I wanted them so bad. My mother told me I couldn’t have them because they would melt on my feet.

00:09:45 And I was like, you know — and you grow up now and you realize what are you — you said — and that’s why I have on plastic shoes right now, because I wanted those jellies.

00:09:52 And then there was — you remember those raincoats, the clear ones? She told me that I would suffocate if I wore one of those.

00:09:59 Ma, you didn't — but, you know — no, I'm serious. But she dealt — she dealt with me in love. There was a certain amount of — there was a — actually, there was a huge level of freedom in our relationship because we exercised choice from an early age, but at the same time, there was discipline, you know what I mean? There were parameters, but we could choose, you know. I remember her telling me stories about when I was five years old.

00:10:24 Every Saturday — of course it wasn’t a school day, but Saturdays and Sundays she would allow me to dress myself, and of course, I would put on, you know, my cowboy boots, like, some crazy skirt, a Flashdance sweater, you know. Ridiculous — just looking real crazy — but at that point, from five years old she was allowing me to be an individual, allowing me to be unique. We just had a very nonconformist family, a very loving — love is so important — a loving environment.

00:10:55 You know, I really — I — to this day, I can’t tell you how blessed I am to know how much love — and let me tell you, because when you get out there and you realize — see, I grew up in a big family. My grandmother had 13 kids, and it was always a lot of us, and we just — you know, we just thought everybody’s family is like this, until I met other people who were scarred. My fiancé — it’s so funny, when two people meet in a relationship, you know, everybody has baggage.

00:11:24 You know, we all bring baggage to every situation and every relationship, but the good part is that when you find someone that you think you have something in common with, you recognize the bags. You know, you’re like, "Oh, that’s Samsonite. I got that.”

00:11:37 “That’s a toiletry bag. You put a toothbrush in there. Uh-huh.”

00:11:40 But when I met my fiancé, I had my little travel kit, and he had, like, U-Hauls, and I was like, "Whoa!"

00:11:47 I was like, "What goes in there?"

00:11:50 ALICE WINKLER: This happens a lot with Lauryn Hill. She starts telling one story, and it leads her to ideas that veer wonderfully into another story. But to get back to the chronology for a moment, we were talking about her childhood and the early influences in her life. She remembers from a very young age being intent on achieving, period, at whatever it was she put her mind to: acting, dancing, singing.

00:12:17 At 13, she appeared on the amateur hour at the Apollo. She sang Who’s Loving You Now and was actually booed. It was devastating but didn’t deter her. She just loved singing too much. During this interview, journalist Eichenthal wondered what music Lauryn Hill fell asleep to each night when she was a child. And remember, it was well before the era of digital music.

00:12:44 LAURYN HILL: Oh boy, I think What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye.

00:12:47 I just remember, like, playing the first side over and over again, you know. It was one of those old record players. After I moved up from the little suitcase record player, there was a bigger record player that my grandmother had given to me, and it was one of those old arms that “rrr,” you know. When you pressed the repeat, it turned and went down, and I used to play my records aloud until one night my mother was like, "This is too loud. I’m not having it," and so I put on headphones.

00:12:47 But in order for me to listen to the records, you know, the headphones didn’t stretch all the way to my bed from the record player, so I had to sleep on the floor in order to hear the records, and that’s where I slept until college. I slept on the floor right next to the record player until I was probably 19 years old, really. I mean I’ve just started sleeping in a bed again, because my records, you know, that was their space, the bed, and I just stayed on the floor listening to this music.

00:13:39 Actually, to be very honest with you, I don't listen to a lot of music at all anymore, anymore at all. I think that's very bizarre, too, because it was such a comfort zone for me, but I don't know if I had my fill, you know. But I don't listen to a lot of music anymore because I’m creating it now. You know, everything takes place in a season. There was a season when that’s all I did was listen, and now I’m just in a place where I don’t listen, I create. And if I do listen, you know, there are specific things that I listen to and for specific reasons.

00:14:08 I'm no longer listening for the — I rarely — I don't want to say I no longer, but I rarely listen for the sheer pleasure. I'm listening for the tool. I'm listening for the instrument. I’m listening for the art. I’m listening for, “Boy, that was crazy what they just did.”

00:14:21 ALICE WINKLER: She was intent on creating something original and something that steered away from where hip hop, by the 1990s, had gone, namely commercial, swaggering, and increasingly violent.

00:14:34 MUSIC: LOST ONES

00:14:34 Now, now how come your talk turn cold?

Gained the whole world for the price of your soul

Tryin’ to grab hold of what you can't control

Now you’re all floss, what a sight to behold

Wisdom is better than silver and gold

00:14:47 LAURYN HILL: I think we all have a certain corner to hold. We — earlier this year, Curtis Mayfield passed away, and we — there was a memorial, and they asked me to sing at the memorial, and I was realizing that what Curtis represented in the '60s and '70s, you know, it’s like, there’s a season, and it’s not really about the messenger, per se. It’s more about the message and how he had a time where he had to hold it because there —

00:15:17 You know, other people were singing love songs and other things, you know. He had a very political, spiritual message, and even though it was entertaining and you enjoyed it and you could dance to it, you know, there was this very heavy value. And I — and as I listened to his eulogy, and as I listened to the music — I mean, music that I grew up listening to — it just dawned on me that our generation’s no different, you know. Someone has to hold it.

00:15:42 When everyone else is being indulgent and doing whatever they want to do, someone has to be responsible so that that music reaches and touches, you know, a specific chord. And that may not be me! I might lose my mind tomorrow, and — but it’s got to be somebody.

00:15:55 MUSIC: LOST ONES

00:15:55 Now don't you understand, man, universal law?

What you throw out comes back to you, star

00:15:58 ALICE WINKLER: It was her, at least for a time. I’ll pick back up with the story of Lauryn Hill’s rapid rise to fame, which is important to review to understand what came next. By the end of high school, Miss Hill had joined a band that would eventually become The Fugees, the word “fugee” a slur for refugees. The Fugees launched Lauryn Hill’s career as a singer and rapper.

00:16:23 Their second album, The Score, was equal parts reggae, rap, and soul, with infectious laid-back beats and often political lyrics about injustice. Many critics consider it one of the best hip hop albums ever made.

00:16:38 MUSIC: READY OR NOT

00:16:39 Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide

Gonna find you and take it slowly

Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide

Gonna find you and make you want me

Now that I escape, sleepwalker awake

00:17:03 ALICE WINKLER: The Score won the Grammy for Best Rap Album of the Year and sold millions of copies worldwide. During the 2012 presidential race, Barack Obama listed Ready or Not, the song you’re hearing, as his number one favorite song. One of the other huge hits on the album was a cover version of the song Roberta Flack made famous in the '70s, Killing Me Softly. It rose to number one on the pop Billboard chart. And basically, I just said that so I’d have an excuse to play it, and can you blame me?

00:17:36 MUSIC: KILLING ME SOFTLY

00:17:36 I heard he sang a good song

I heard he had a style

And so I came to see him, to listen for a while

And there he was, this young boy

A stranger to my eyes

Strumming my pain with his fingers

Singing my life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

Killing me softly with his song

Telling my whole life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

00:18:42 ALICE WINKLER: Just as The Fugees were taking a victory lap, the band broke up, partly the result of a romantic relationship gone wrong between Hill and her bandmate Wyclef Jean. But Lauryn Hill talked about the other factors that led her to begin working furiously on a solo album.

00:19:00 LAURYN HILL: There’s a time for everything. There’s a time to be in a group, and there’s a time to be solo, at least there was for me. If I had had it my way, I would have been in the group forever. I enjoyed the group atmosphere. I thought, you know, it was so good to have two guys on stage backing you up, but the interesting thing about entertainment is that when you’re struggling, everybody goes in with the same goals, you know, but somewhere along the success area you start to look at everyone around you and go, "Wait a minute. Where are you going? And where are you headed, because I’m going this way. Wait, what happened? I thought we were all on the — "

00:19:38 Sometimes success can do that. Sometimes it really illuminates creative differences, spiritual differences, emotional differences, and I, you know, just like a young person would, think that, you know, the friends that you — my fifth grade friends are going to be my friends forever, you know. Throughout high school, throughout — and it’s not that they cease being your friends, but sometimes you just mature to a place, and some people get there faster, some people don’t, and hopefully, ultimately, everyone catches up.

00:20:08 But it's really interesting, because I didn't actually make a decision to be solo. It really just happened. I promise you that. It's hard to explain, but, you know, I had intended to be in the group forever until I found myself in circumstances where I felt the inner desire to express myself, freely and openly without any constraint, without anybody saying, "Hey, that's — you can’t say that. That's not fly. You can't say that. People won't — " you know what I mean? So the only way I could have done that was in doing a solo release.

00:20:47 MUSIC: EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING

00:21:08 Everything is everything

What is meant to be, will be

After winter, must come spring

Change, it comes eventually

00:21:28 ALICE WINKLER: Lauryn Hill’s 1998 solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was met with euphoria by both fans and critics. At the Grammys that year, Lauryn Hill won Best New Artist, and Miseducation won Album of the Year, as well as three other Grammys, and its power hasn’t waned. In 2015, it was selected for the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. The title, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was in large part an homage to Carter Woodson, a black historian who was one of the first scholars to study African American history.

00:22:09 One of his groundbreaking books, on Lauryn Hill’s parents’ bookshelves, was The Miseducation of the Negro.

00:22:17 MUSIC: EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING

00:22:18 Who made these rules?

(Who made these rules?)

We're so confused

(We're so confused)

Easily led astray

Let me tell you that

00:22:28 LAURYN HILL: You know, “miseducation,” every day it means something more to me, actually. People automatically thought, you know, she must have done — you know, maybe her teachers didn’t teach anything, but that wasn’t it. The meaning behind it was really sort of a catch in me learning that, you know, when I thought I was my most wise, really not wise at all, and in my humility and in those places that most people wouldn’t expect a lesson to come from, that’s where I learned so much.

00:22:58 MUSIC: EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING

00:22:18 I begat this

Flipping in the ghetto on a dirty mattress

You can't match this rapper slash actress

More powerful than two Cleopatras

Bomb graffiti on the tomb of Nefertiti

MCs ain't ready to take it to the Serengeti

My rhymes is heavy like the mind of Sister Betty (Betty Shabazz)

L-Boogie spars with stars and constellations

Then came down for a little conversation

Adjacent to the king, fear no human being

Roll with cherubims to Nassau Coliseum

Now hear this mixture, where hip hop meets scripture

Develop a negative into a positive picture

Now everything is everything

00:23:31 LAURYN HILL: I mean, it was personal. I think that's probably the only reason why I put my name in the title. You know, because it was — I’ll just say that I had gone through a lot, a huge emotional and spiritual battle, prior to the creation of that album, and the funny thing is that while I was going into battle, I couldn’t see my hand to spite my face. I mean I really couldn’t see anything because I was so emotionally entangled in everything that I’d gone through.

00:24:00 But it was like, once I was delivered from that situation and once I got the perspective, I was able to look back at heartache and look back at pain and disappointment.

00:24:09 MUSIC: EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING

00:24:09 Let's love ourselves and we can't fail

To make a better situation

00:24:18 LAURYN HILL: For some reason, it all was so clear. The picture started to form itself. The songs started to create themselves. I was able to look back and be a narrator of my own situation.

00:24:33 ALICE WINKLER: And what was the cause of all that heartache and disappointment that led to the creation of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill?

00:24:40 LAURYN HILL: You know, it was about a young woman in the music industry, and the pitfalls, the snares, the traps, and they don’t stop. They keep coming. I think that, because I grew up in such a loving family structure, I thought that everybody did, and therefore I thought that everybody reaped the benefit of that love — and a pretty naïve way to think. And so I learned very important lessons about people and their voids and how, when you have voids, you know, like, a black hole just sucks, you know, and consumes everything into it.

00:25:18 And I met a lot of those people. Met a lot of black holes, a lot of people with a lot of deep, deep, painful voids who found it easy to take advantage and to manipulate and to deceive someone, with me who just, you know, all I want to do is love.

00:25:34 MUSIC: FORGIVE THEM FATHER

00:25:34 Beware the false motives of others

Be careful of those who pretend to be brothers

And you never suppose

It's those who are closest to you

To you

They say all the right things, to gain their position

Then use your kindness as their ammunition

To shoot you down in the name of ambition, they do

Oh

Forgive them father for they know not what they do

00:26:26 LAURYN HILL: A lot of that was unconscious creation, unconscious creativity, because I was so overwhelmingly emotional. You know, it was just, like, I couldn’t — I just had to write about this. Because every time that God navigates my ship, there’s nothing cerebral going on. It’s very little, you know — there’s very little thought. It’s almost as if I have the directions. It's all there, and it's clear. These are your orders. Just go forth and carry them out.

00:26:57 ALICE WINKLER: Lauryn Hill talked a lot about taking directions from a higher source in this interview and about how she read the Bible every day for sustenance. "If the entire week is a battlefield," she said, "The Bible is a parachute, with a box of reserves, like the ones that come in the middle of a war with food, water, and a toothbrush."

00:27:21 LAURYN HILL: So I was going to say, what I’ve consciously decided to do was be patient and wait for those instructions again, as opposed to the instructions from the record company.

00:27:29 ALICE WINKLER: Lauryn Hill was patient, waiting for her instructions — her fans, not so much. With the exception of an MTV Unplugged live event, released as an album in 2002, Lauryn Hill has not recorded another album of her own music, and I give that qualifier because in summer of 2015, she did have six songs on a tribute album to Nina Simone, called Nina Revisited. I’ll play you a bit of that before the podcast is over. But in the intervening years, since Miseducation, her fans, millions of them, have been despondent and often disappointed, even angry, on the few occasions Miss Hill has surfaced.

00:28:14 She’s been famously late, for instance, to her own concerts, sometimes hours late. Back in 2000, when she appeared before students at the Academy of Achievement Summit, this is how Lauryn Hill described what she was struggling with as a mega-celebrity uncomfortable with her new stature.

00:28:34 LAURYN HILL: The music industry is just a microcosm of the world. So whenever you stand for something and you stand for goodness and truth, you will always get resistance. That’s period, whether you’re in pharmaceutical — the pharmaceutical industry, the record industry, or whatever. Whenever you stand for truth and for the service — you know, the service of others — see, I could make money very easily. I could make records that are self-indulgent and, you know, basically self-promote me. I could do that.

00:29:03 I could do that. Promote myself. That was redundant, but you know what I mean.

00:29:06 You know, just do those things. It’s very easy. As a matter of fact, you know, lyrically, as an MC, that stuff comes easy. But in order to promote something higher — I mean, I feel now, at the ripe old age of 25, that the only thing that I could do is serve others. And because there are people who have not reached that point in their walk, you know, yes, there’s a little anger. There’s a little resentment because you raise a standard, you know.

00:29:38 You — especially when you do it and you make some noise, you know. And you do it and people actually listen to what you have to say and, like, your record is bumping on the radio, and you’re saying something that holds a mirror up to a lot of the negativity and self-indulgent things and messages that a lot of other people — you know, but we're all young. I mean, I have a hard time being so hard on the music world, especially hip hop, because most of them come out of the hood, 17 years old, having no clue or concept of what life really is.

00:30:14 I'm telling you. I'm so blessed to have reached this place where, you know, five years ago I was so thin-skinned. Whatever anybody said would just, "Oh, my God. They don’t like this rhyme, and oh, my songs, and oh — " you know. And then one day I woke up, and it was like my skin was just — it was so thick, it was impenetrable by those fiery darts. It just — they just had no effect, and I realized that that was a strength and a confidence that only came from a higher source.

00:30:42 MUSIC: DOO WOP (THAT THING)

00:30:43 The second verse is dedicated to the men

More concerned with his rims

And his Timbs than his women

Him and his men, come in the club like hooligans

Don't care who they offend, poppin’ yang

(Like you got yen!)

Let's stop pretend

The ones that pack pistols by they waist men

Cristal by the case men

Still in they mother's basement

The pretty face men

Claiming that they be the big men

Need to take care of they three or four kids

And they face a court case

When the child support late

Money taking and heart breaking

Now you wonder why women hate men

The sleepy, silent men

The punk, domestic violence men

Quick to shoot the semen

Stop acting like boys and be men

How you gonna win, when you ain't right within?

How you gonna win, when you ain't right within?

How you gonna win, when you ain't right within?

Uh-uh, come again

00:31:21 LAURYN HILL: For me now, I'm learning that it’s more important to be righteous than to be right. I’ve tried to be right. You know, “This is right. This is an injustice. This is a travesty. I’m right.” But I’ve been very unrighteous and still right. Oh, my God, you know, because you can attack someone, completely right, but it doesn’t resolve anything. So I understand now that the battlefield, and that the war, is so much greater than what we see before us. You know, I live in this physical body. This is like my address, like 22 Eder Terrace. I just gave everybody my address, but that’s my address.

00:31:58 Fight me. No. Well, this is where I live, you know. But there is something much deeper. Who I am, you know, has nothing to do with, you know, the hair and the shoes and stuff, even though I like shoes.

00:32:12 But, you know, it has nothing to do with that. So, I pray for the people who don’t understand me, and I tell you — to be honest with you, I pray more now to understand than to be understood. I pray now to know — to learn how to love more than to be loved because God has given me an abundance. You understand what I'm saying? Our enemies are not — you know, they're not flesh and blood, and our problems are not flesh and blood, even though we think they are.

00:32:40 I don't mean to sound ethereal, because of what I'm saying — I'm telling you, it’s heavy as bricks. It's very concrete. Sometimes it can sound like doo-doo-doo-woo, you know?

00:32:47 But it's not that. You know, it’s like — who saw the movie The Matrix? Okay.

00:32:54 Okay. Good. Then we can start from a point of reference. Matrix was a banging movie to me, and the reason why I appreciated it so much was because, do you remember at the end when Neo, like, realized his potential? He started to see the binary code?

00:33:10 You remember that? The whole world? Well, I’m — that’s where I’m trying to be spiritually. I’m trying to see the word of God in the whole world. So every time that agent throws a punch, I’m, like, “I see you.”

00:33:21 "Oh, okay." You know, I’m just catching his punches, but the — but here's the trick. Here's the trick.

00:33:26 Here’s the trick, is that you have to remember that sometimes you can be an agent. You can be an agent to yourself. You can be an agent against someone else and not even realize that you’re being used. That’s “the matrix.” In order to be used by God, you have to really be used. You know, we always want to be used for the glorious jobs. “God, put me on the stage in front of the people in the Grammy show with a nice dress on. Let me just praise your name.”

00:33:56 But that’s not being used. Sometimes in order to be used, you also have to be humiliated. You have to be humiliated sometimes. You have to be kicked and beaten. Let me tell you another thing about “the matrix.”

00:34:09 Going back to “the matrix,” is that I was always confused about it. I always thought that, you know, “the matrix” was battling the enemy out there, picking them out. "I’m going to find those enemies and I’m going to get that enemy," until I realized that until you conquer the enemy in yourself, you can’t deal with anyone.

00:34:27 ALICE WINKLER: And so, whatever Lauryn Hill was battling, inside and out, she stepped away from the music business that had given her both fame and fortune and got back to living, back to raising what would eventually be her six children, waiting, as she said earlier, for new experiences, new wisdom, and new direction from above.

00:34:51 Just last year, as I said earlier, Lauryn Hill recorded six songs made famous by Nina Simone, another utterly original artist. It may not be the comeback Lauryn Hill fans were waiting for, but it’s Lauryn Hill on her own terms, and that, her fans can applaud.

00:35:11 MUSIC: FEELING GOOD

00:35:12 Sun in the sky, you know how I feel

Breeze drifting on by, you know how I feel

It's a new dawn, it's a new day

It's a new life for me

It's a new dawn, it's a new day

It's a new life for me

And I'm feeling good

00:35:47 ALICE WINKLER: Lauryn Hill, speaking to the Academy of Achievement. Go ahead and tweet it out. If you’re a fan, you know your friends want to hear this. I’m Alice Winkler, and this is What It Takes.

00:35:59 MUSIC: FEELING GOOD

00:35:12 You know how I feel

Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel

It's a new dawn, it's a new day

It's a new life for me

And I'm feeling good

00:36:19 ALICE WINKLER: Funding for What It Takes comes from the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.

00:36:24 MUSIC: FEELING GOOD

00:35:12 Dragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean

Don't you know

Butterflies all having fun, you know what I mean

Sleep in peace when day is done, that's what I mean

And this old world is a new world

And a bold world for me

What It Takes is a podcast of conversations with well-known people in almost every field. The interviews have been recorded over the past 25 years by the American Academy of Achievement. They offer life stories of people who have had a huge impact on the world. They offer insights you can apply to your own life.

XS
SM
MD
LG