At long last, Lauryn Hill fans can hear her first single in years—but they shouldn't expect another “Doo Wop (That Thing)” or “Everything Is Everything.” Instead, Hill raps in a nearly unbroken stream for more than 4 minutes, taking aim at nothing less than the whole of society.
It’s not her best work, and Hill seems to know it. In a Tumblr post over the weekend, Hill says she was “required” to release the song immediately, “by virtue of the impending legal deadline”:
I love being able to reach people directly, but in an ideal scenario, I would not have to rush the release of new music… but the message is still there. In light of Wednesday’s tragic loss (of former label mate [and Kriss Kross rapper] Chris Kelly), I am even more pressed to YELL this to a multitude that may not understand the cost of allowing today’s unhealthy paradigms to remain unchecked!
I’m glad that Hill’s label didn’t stop her from delivering her message (the song is now up for sale on iTunes), but everything else about the track—its tedious production, its perfunctory “ooh ah” chorus, even its rhymes—says it wasn’t ready. Even what she’s trying to say frequently gets jumbled: The disdainful words rush out of her mouth so fast, it’s sometimes unclear how one thing flows from the next. And in her hurry to get out her message, Hill hardly changes up her flow at all: In the first verse, nearly two dozen lines rhyme on the same syllable: -ly or -y.
Now that she’s gotten all this off her chest, hopefully she can narrow her focus, so her attacks will be sharper. I’m all for Hill having something to say, but hopefully next time she’ll slow down and take the time to remember what made people want to listen to her in the first place: her voice, her turns of phrase, her way of slipping seamlessly between hip-hop and R&B. If she came with a hook, more people would want to hear her message.