It’s May in Los Angeles. My friend Tami just moved to the area and we’re looking for things to do. The Do Over season is about to begin, and that’s great, but there will be plenty of time for those. What better way to introduce a friend to the West Coast than a concert that we couldn’t catch back home in Michigan? We’ll go see Lauryn Hill!
Years had passed since her shows in San Francisco and Oakland that left fans wondering what they were listening to, or who they had saw. It had been years since Rock The Bells 2010 in NY where concertgoers so fed up with her they walked away from the stage in droves. The 2010 Rock The Bells in D.C., the one where she was three hours late to a show because she desperately needed a manicure and pedicure was also an afterthought.
So I dole out $180 for two tickets; second row from the ceiling. Hop in my gas guzzling Ford and make the 17.6 mile trek to what is now the Microsoft Theater. In pure Lauryn Hill fashion we’re about 30 minutes late. Nothing major. Paid the $30 to park in a LA Live parking garage and head straight to the bar once we’re inside for $30 drinks. We get to our seats and the energy is palpable. Everyone is enjoying themselves. We’ve made a good decision. Right?
It was at this point Charlie Murphy’s voice never rang so loudly in my head before: “Wrong.”
Half an hour goes by. An hour. Another hour and a half. That palpable energy is turning into restlessness. Resentment. Anger. Two hours go by. During the wait, the crowd is given a DJ who makes it very known on the microphone every 15 minutes that he isn’t actually a DJ. I lost track after the two-hour mark but Lauryn finally emerges amidst a sea of mixed reaction; And she proceeded to give the most disjointed, clusterfuck of a performance I’ve ever seen.
woke up to catch @WHUTUPDOE's tweets about a disappointing lauryn hill set. sigh. ::turns back around:: pic.twitter.com/QKAFcCpd3Y
— Erika Ramirez (@3rika) May 18, 2014
With a vitriol that a native Michigander only reserves for things Ohio State related, I took to Twitter in a fury. After my tweets of disdain went viral, being noticed by LA Times writers and Billboard editors alike, we decided to leave 45 minutes into Lauryn’s struggle set.
This account of the Lauryn Hill show from @WHUTUPDOE is a dream crusher. Sadly not surprised though. Caught her with Nas and was upset.
— Gerrick D. Kennedy (@GerrickKennedy) May 18, 2014
This was 2014.
Fast forward to current day and Ms. Hill is back to her regularly scheduled antics yet again.
Social media exploded this past Friday after L-Boog swindled her constituents yet again, this time in Atlanta, as she showed up two hours tardy to her show at the Chastain Park Amphitheater. A venue known to have a strict curfew, the sound was promptly cut at 11 p.m. sharp: Just 40 minutes after the fallen Fugee finally took stage.
At this point the question should no longer be about why she continues to defraud her devotees. After a documented 11 years operating with impunity and no regard or respect for those who still support her, she is who we thought she was.
And we’re letting her off the hook.
For as many detractors over the past couple of days, there have been an equal amount of capes going up across the Internet. Caped crusaders have rushed to their keyboards to take arms with anyone who should find issue with Lauryn’s blatant disregard for anyone but herself. Similarities to stories of tardiness from Yasiin Bey of the early 00s all the way to Miles Davis and Nina Simone have been made to excuse her behavior. Overtures of possible mental health disorders have been used to absolve her of personal responsibility.
Even Lauryn’s contemporaries such as Talib Kweli have taken to Twitter with an Ivan Drago, “If she’s late she’s late,” approach. Never one to miss an opportunity for nonsensical rants, Kweli also chimed in to say that an artist who has given him “life” through their music doesn’t owe him the courtesy of being on time for a show or anything else.
Why after a decade of irreverence is Lauryn given a pass? Sister Act 2 was 23 years ago. The Score celebrated its 20th anniversary early this year; Miseducation turns 18 in August. Aside from the buffoonery of Billboard’s Top 10 Greatest Rappers list placing L-Boog at #7 and 2Pac not charting, she hasn’t done anything of worth in nearly two decades.
It’s time we start holding our artists, our luminaries accountable for their bullshit.
There’s no reason Lauryn Hill should still be able to tour. There’s no reason R. Kelly should even be a free man, let alone have a career. There’s no reason to defend Jill Scott after her defense of Bill Cosby. There’s no reason to let KRS-One off the hook for his placement of Hip-Hop over the well being of molestation victims. There’s no reason to excuse Erykah Badu’s illogical diatribe on the sexuality of grown men and teenage girls.
AND THERE’S NO REASON LAURYN HILL SHOULD STILL BE ABLE TO TOUR.
In a world where art is readily accessible, doling out hundreds of dollars for a show of someone who may not actually show, is simply financially irresponsible. YouTube has got your back for free, fam. If you like living life with your wallet in the toilet and a hand on the flusher, TIDAL has you covered with 1411kbps lossless files for $19.99 per month. Hell, don’t tell the RIAA I sent you but people still torrent. I’m sure RapGodfathers is still offering up your latest selection of iPhone-ready pirated albums.
But if you’re still undecided on buying those Lauryn Hill tickets remember that I, and thousands of others like me over the past decade, did that so hopefully you wouldn’t have to go through that.
If you listen closely, you can almost hear Her Highness getting the memo. Almost.
Marcel Williams is Michigan transplant thriving in Los Angeles and he loves his #HailHydra hashtag. Catch him on Twitter at @WHUTUPDOE.