August 25, 2008 by Marc Lamont Hill
Today’s photo of the day shows the 2008 United States Men’s Basketball team, which won the gold medal this weekend.
August 25, 2008 by Marc Lamont Hill
Today’s video of the day comes from Springfield, IL, where Barack Obama and Joe Biden made their first appearance together as running mates. Thoughts on Biden’s speech?
August 22, 2008 by Marc Lamont Hill
Today’s video of the day comes from The O’Reilly Factor, where I “discussed” the role of patriotism in the current presidential election.
August 21, 2008 by Marc Lamont Hill
With the convention a few days away, Barack Obama has finally decided on his vice-presidential pick and will make his announcement any day now. Here’s my take on the finalists:
Evan Bayh: To be sure, Bayh is a safe and smart pick. As a centrist, Bayh will do nothing to bolster the absurd GOP arguments that Obama is a radical leftist. Also, at 52-years-old, Bayh is young enough not tarnish Obama’s pro-change anti-Washington brand. Unfortunately, Bayh is a little too boring to be Obama’s wingman. More importantly, his role as a national co-chair of the Clinton campaign will raise some serious trust issues for Obama. Bottom line: Ain’t gonna happen.
Tim Kaine: If you’re Barack Obama there are lots of reasons to choose Tim Kaine: executive experience, religious faith (Catholic!), Washington outsider status, political savvy. In addition, Kaine has the potential of delivering Virginia, which could be the difference between victory and defeat in November. The only problem with Kaine is that he does nothing to help Obama on the foreign policy front, an issue that has begun to affect his polling numbers.
Joe Biden: From the beginning, I have said that this was the best pick. Biden brings experience, foreign policy credentials, and charisma (not that it’s lacking) to the ticket. Also, as Melissa and I mentioned before, choosing Biden after the whole “articulate” fiasco would show White voters that he’s above “petty racial politics.” Given the extraordinary role that race has played throughout this election year, such symbolism cannot be overestimated. I may be wrong, but I’m going to stick with Biden as the choice.
August 21, 2008 by Marc Lamont Hill
On the 10th anniversary of Miseducation, we mine the classic recording for clues about what went wrong.
The Confessions of Lauryn Hill
By Teresa Wilitz
Scroll back a decade, and there was Lauryn Hill—top of the world, Ma!—clutching five Grammys and sending shoutouts to her babies, thanking them for not spilling stuff all over her designer duds, clearly overwhelmed by the massiveness of it all: “This is crazy,” she said, “’cause this is hip-hop music!”
If you were young and female and hip-hop, it couldn’t get more fabulous than Lauryn, more celebrated, more anointed, more praised. Ten Grammy nominations: No woman and no hip-hop artist, had managed to do that. Ever. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which was released 10 years ago this month, has since taken its place in the canon of popular music. Lauryn produced, wrote and arranged the album which mixed and matched rap, gospel, doo-wop, reggae, old-school soul and folkie fervor, touching a collective nerve in a way that no hip-hop album had done before. Rolling Stone declared The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill the album of the year; Spin pronounced Hill “Artist of the Year.” Fans compared her to Martin Luther King Jr.; Chuck D compared her to sunlight. She was, he said, “the Bob Marley of the 21st century.”
It didn’t hurt that she was beautiful and petite. It didn’t hurt that she didn’t seem to want any of it, that she wore the money and fame as lightly and ironically as she did those $3,500 frocks she rocked in the fashion rags.
And then, just like that, she all but disappeared. Only to pop up from time to time for a few random stage shows and a tense mini-reunion with the Fugees in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. (You can’t really count that half-hearted MTV Unplugged CD as anything, but more on that later.) Ten years after Miseducation, she remains one of hip-hop’s biggest mysteries, mocked for her eccentricities, her every misstep gossiped about in the afrosphere.
There are extroverted divas—Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna—who’ve mastered the art of peddling persona, pimping everything from clothing lines to perfume to American Express. The music seems almost incidental, just another unit to move. Then, too, there are the pragmatic ones—Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, and, to a lesser extent, Erykah Badu—who find a way to live within the world of fame, being in it, but not of it. But then there are the sensitive souls—D’Angelo, Maxwell, Lauryn—emotional tenderonis who seem to internalize their art, folks for whom fame is a beast. Lauryn, after receiving a big, wet kiss of affirmation, slammed the door on fame. Went into hiding. Not that we shouldn’t have expected it. In retrospect, listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill feels more like eavesdropping in on “The Confessions of Lauryn Hill.”
She was leaving clues for us all along the way.
Music is supposed to inspire
How come we ain’t getting no higher?
Now tell me your philosophy
On exactly what an artist should be
Should they be someone with prosperity
And no concept of reality?
Clue No. 1: She wasn’t feeling fame. The spotlight was something to be feared; the people who could bring you riches—record label suits, peddlers of “the capitalist system”—were to be actively mistrusted. In Miseducation, she paints herself as a warrior woman, doing battle against the oppressive “They”: The ones who insisted that she get an abortion in “Zion.” The ones who “shoot you down in the name of ambition” in “Forgive Them Father.” Even as a very young woman—she was 23 at the time—she was acutely aware of the downfalls of being a superstar: “They’ll hail you then they’ll nail you,” she sings in “Superstar,” “…They’ll make you now then take you down.”
At times, her wariness borders on paranoia, with references to “wolves in sheep clothing” and warnings of “beware those who pretend to be brothers.” And indeed, later, producers/songwriters Johari Newton, Rasheem Pugh, Vada Nobles and Tejumold Newton would sue her, claiming that they were co-creators on the album and deserved both credit and a cut of the action. (She later settled with the group for a reported $5 million.)
So perhaps it’s no surprise that she took the estimated $25 million that she netted from the sales and merchandising of the triple-platinum-selling Miseducation—and ran.
Clue No. 2: Her consuming relationship with religion. After she pulled her disappearing act,
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