Lauryn Hill’s Performance Was Bad

cb on December 11, 2016 - 12:18 pm in Features, Reviews

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This article originally appeared in the INTERLUDE Newsletter.

There was a huge to-do when Lauryn Hill was announced as headliner of this year’s Hennessy Artistry. Outside of the regular dancehall and reggae acts who usually make up the bill, it was surprising that the promoters, FAS Entertainment, were able to book someone who’s name isn’t Aidonia or Popcaan, far less land a hip-hop and soul icon as the top bill.

But in the midst of the hullabaloo, the main question was: Would she even show up? Acts have been promised in the past, and they usually pulled out at the last-minute, or they were just no-shows. Maya still hasn’t left the hotel, and Nicki Minaj might be still on her way here. And if she did show up, Would she be on time? Ms. Hill’s recent tardiness has been well-documented online, arriving hours late to shows because her energies are not aligned for the artistic process or something along those lines. Should I buy my ticket? Do they have a backup act in case? Saturday night, however, Miss Hill landed at GAIA, and the following Sunday at the Kensington Oval, the songstress arrived “on time” (more on that later). Sadly, her performance left much to be desired.

In what was the island’s biggest mannequin challenge not put on by ICBL’s marketing team, majority of us were left perplexed as Lauryn speed-rapped her hits backed by a funk band playing at brek-neck speed. It sounded like a maniac was on stage rambling as the drums crashed and the guitars crunched maniacally. All hopes of trying to rap and sing your heart out along with the songs, much less follow the set list, were shot. As soon as the notes from recognizable hits like “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, and “Ready or Not” dropped, a wave of roars erupted, but then Lauryn took a sharp left turn into an unintelligible flow, which quieted the crowd as we all stared in collective confusion. For whose who have waited years to see her perform a cozy set of the hits, Fugees verses, and deep cuts were left disappointed. It felt like she and the band were rushing to get back on the plane as soon as possible because they heard of Chris Sinckler and his heavy-hand with regards to taxes, and Lord knows Lauryn can’t take anymore of that. She didn’t even break out the guitar. It was bad.

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t all her fault. The band was tight, her outfit was fly, her vocals were amazing, the light show impressive. It wasn’t her fault that she sounded like a muddy, high-bpm mess – barely making out anything she said – because sound issues plagued every performance for the whole night. It wasn’t her fault that she let down our expectations of her performing the studio versions of songs from The Score or The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (the same songs being spun on the radio leading up to the show), because as an artist she is at will to perform her songs however she sees fit. Plus the songs that we all love were made when she was in her early 20s. I would get bored, too, performing them the same way for decades now that I’m in my 40s, so a few new arrangements will spice things up. (Also: there has been talk about rights issues for years, hence why she performs them that way, but there hasn’t been much concrete evidence). But performing in a way that fans who paid their hard-earned money can’t even enjoy is beyond me.

Later on that night, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer – both, reportedly, victims of Lauryn’s alleged tardiness (rumour has it she was locked away meditating) by having their sets cut short because of curfew – made up for the travesty of her performance by running through their respective smashes, performing on stage together without sharing tumps, (they ended their feud a few years ago) and breathing life back into the crowd in a short space of time. It was a great, if not anticlimactic, end to the show, and a more than fitting follow-up to the let-down that happened a few minutes earlier. I think it’s best that we pretend that it never happened.

Carlos Brathwaite is the Founder & Editor of 246Mixtapes. Follow him on Twitter.

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