REVIEW | She Begat This: 20 Years of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Joan Morgan

I fell in love with journalist + feminist author Joan Morgan’s writing after reading When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost years ago. So, when I found out she would be working on She Begat This: 20 Years of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, I knew I had to get my hands on it ASAP. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill plays loudly in the soundtrack of my teenage years and I still find myself learning and relearning love lessons as I listen to it today. Joan Morgan’s exploration of this album, along with the likes of Michaela Angela Davis, dream hampton, and DJ Beverly Bond (#BlackGirlsRock) is so necessary + such a dope way to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of such an iconic album. I read this baby last weekend and when I tell you I got my whole life, please believe me!

the miseducation of lauryn hill
I love how She Begat This opens with the late 90s when Lauryn Hill emerged on the scene as a solo artist and what makes this moment so iconic. Lauryn Hill created her own lane, sharing bold style choices, and a dark-lipstick, dread-locked aesthetic that was ahead of its time. I love that Michaela Angela Davis notes that she did this move to mainstream without “altering her blackness.” She began setting trends in her own way, making others take notice. This alone is a political AND feminist statement, long before the days of social media. Not only was it seen by women of color, but picked up on by Harper’s Bazaar, as they gave her the September 1999 cover. Not only was Hill's presence saying something serious, her lyrics could rival many in the male-dominated space of hip-hop. Lauryn Hill was becoming an icon before our eyes and Morgan noted every detail, lest anyone forgot or didn't know how major this was in the 90s.

Through interviews and candid conversations, Morgan dissects lyrics, interludes, and moments in pop culture that became The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The book explores things I saw happening during the time of Miseducation without even realizing how big they were as a teen. I ate these words up like it was a school lesson and someone would test and question me the next day (much like the teacher questions the students in the album’s interludes). Not only did she share views from those that love the album, there are very critical accounts. In fact, dream hampton reminds us that Miseducation did not come without its flaws. There was an issue with crediting writers + producers. Add the idea that hampton really believed Hill could have came stronger with the vocals and production. Nonetheless, I devoured every word she said. Though it didn't sway my opinion, I still appreciate the opinions of great writers that make me see the other side of things.

I see The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill as a classic. I ingested its lyrics, sounds, and all accompanying visuals + magazine interviews, during a time that I was learning what it meant to be a woman. I was learning what taking up space as a woman meant for me. How would I handle the love given to me? Would it be enough? And how would I determine what type of love was acceptable for me? That album did more for me than I could have ever recognized at that time. I went from being an awkward 14-year-old singing “you might win some but you just lost one,” in the backseat of my cousin Gina’s car to wondering at 16 why my first real boyfriend couldn’t love me back the way I thought he should. There was so much time between those two stages of my life and Lauryn Hill was a part of them both.

It wasn’t just an album. It was the soundtrack of a pivotal moment in my life. Never mind the critics who argue L. Boogie only had one strong body of work. Forget the writers who penned Lauryn’s real-life decisions were problematic and hypocritical, nothing to be celebrated. She was human before the fame or glamour we as consumers helped to project onto her came to be. I’m just a regular ass girl and many won’t see the poor decisions I made when trying to figure out my self-worth in the guise of bad relationships. But I made every one of them and will own up to all in the name of love and acceptance.

I write all this to say that there’s a lot to celebrate in the 20-year anniversary of Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation. And I truly believe She Begat This did the best job of unpacking this album in all its good, bad, and ugly for what it was—a movement. And not the album we romanticize as we reminisce on the summers we spent falling in love and vibing to those tracks. Reading She Begat This was cathartic. It was the perfect study guide to pulling apart my own feelings when experiencing The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. And what better time to arrive than when I’m older and working on my healing. I couldn’t have chosen a better journalist for this project than my favorite hip-hop feminist Joan Morgan. She lives, breathes, and feels feminism in a way that she's able to  share so freely with her readers. I’ve always admired her transparency and talent to do so with such beautiful words.

the miseducation of lauryn hill

Thanks to L. Boogie, I have an album to commemorate my own "miseducation" in love and heartbreak. And thanks to Joan Morgan, I have a testament to how this album affected the lives of many women physically, politically, mentally, and emotionally, one heart-felt lyric at a time.  I implore all fans and avid readers of hip-hop, feminist lit, and anyone who has love + respect for my Gemini sista Lauryn Hill to pick up this book on Amazon ASAP. You won’t be disappointed.


Will you be reading She Begat This by Joan Morgan?

Thank you to Atria Books, Joan Morgan, and Netgalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. For more about my disclosure policy, click here
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