H Is For Hip Hop And Its Queens

H in the A to Z of fusion goes to Hip Hop music – leaving aside here the other core elements that make up hip hop culture.

Hip Hop earns its place because its creation definitely involves the refined art of fusion. From DJs mixing records they spin to studio producers/beat makers sampling, chopping, looping, sequencing, recording and mixing-  the beats, sounds and grooves that make up hip hop music are found and blended together from a broad range of worldwide music sources including funk, soul, rhythm and blues, disco, jazz, rock, heavy metal, reggae, salsa, cumbia, soca, pop and well, any other genre you choose really.

The evolution of hip hop music is long and involved. Its characters and contributors are many. Its history fills pages you can find elsewhere. Sufficed to say here its original roots are found in Africa and since its formation in New York in the 70’s the hip hop phenomena has spread far and wide throughout the world. Erykah Badu perfectly describes its contemporary influence in ‘The Healer’ when she sings “It’s bigger than religion, hip hop. It’s bigger than my nigga, hip hop. It’s bigger than the government”.  And thankfully so.

“The Healer” by Erykah Badu – New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)

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It’s the hip hop Kings of the world who’ve generally been the most heard and celebrated. Check out “essential hip hop” albums to find most are compilations of tracks by male artists. But of course there are female artists all over the world creating hip hop music whether they be DJ’s, MCs, beat makers or producers. Sampled below are songs featuring just a handful of those many hip hop Queens – some widely known and celebrated, others less so.

The usual warning applies: versions you find here are just dirty, compressed mp3s. Get the real deal on hard copy from your local music store, in their sweetest of forms on vinyl.

Erykah Badu (U.S.A)

Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground

“Love Of My Life Worldwide” featuring Queen Latifah, Angie Stone & Bahamadia – Worldwide Underground

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Fugees (inc. Ms Lauryn Hill) (U.S.A)

Fugees - Blunted On Reality

“Some Seek Stardom” – Blunted on Reality

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ChocQuibTown (Colombia)

ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico

“Somos Pacifico” – Somos Pacifico

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Georgia Anne Muldrow (U.S.A)

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

“Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Ladi6 (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Ladi6 - Time Is Not Much

“Give Me The Light” – Time Is Not Much

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Nneka (Nigeria/Germany)

Nneka - No Longer At Ease

“Halfcast” – No Longer At Ease 

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Telmary (Cuba)

Telmary - A Diario

“Ando” – A Diario

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Yep, blessed are we for the birth of hip hop music and its ongoing fusionary evolution since by artists all over the world.  Thankful are we for both its Queens and its Kings.

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Lauryn Hill Live at Sydney Opera House

Who knew what to expect from a live Lauryn Hill show after hearing so little from her for such a long time?

With a catalogue of much-loved songs from so many years ago, prompting some people to dub her as ‘the first lady of hip-hop’, the idea of Lauryn Hill performing live in the grand, old halls of Sydney Opera House seemed like a good fit for her – and a musical experience I probably wouldn’t want to miss.

Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)

Good Opera House Vibes

The vibes in the Opera House before Lauryn Hill and her band eventually arrived on stage were some of the most lively and fun I’ve ever experienced at a concert. Most of the crowd were up on their feet dancing to the popular soul, r&b and hip-hop tracks served up by Lauryn Hill’s DJ  – smiling even more because it felt so surreally good to be gettin’ down to those tunes within the walls of that grand concert hall. For those moments, everyone was well and truly in the greatest of moods for the much-anticipated arrival of ‘the first lady’.

Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)

Get a glimpse of those ‘happy’ Sydney Opera House vibes on video here

Enter Lauryn Hill & All

The 90+ minutes that passed after Lauryn Hill, her 3 back-up singers and 5 instrumentalists joined the DJ on stage were fun too. Enjoyable, sure. Entertaining yes. But did Lauryn Hill’s show blow me away like I know this special artist has the ability to do? Would I actually have missed out on something musically-innovative and amazing had I not paid the $100 to see this show at Sydney Opera House? Not especially, no.
Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)

Lauryn Hill performed a mix of those much-loved songs from her days with the Fugees and subsequent solo albums The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) and MTV Unplugged (2002). Tracks like ‘Mr Intentional’ (video below) and ‘Oh Jerusalem’ were performed acoustically, the most precious sounding of the show.

Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)

Check out a video here of ‘Mr Intentional’ live at Sydney Opera House…

Most songs were performed with the full band – all of whom were accomplished musicians and singers yes.

Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)

But most Lauryn Hill and Fugees songs were barely recognisable with the fresh, fast-paced, overly-full and busy new arrangements they were given. I’m not a purist, nor am I attached to the original versions of those songs. Fresh, evolutionary, musically-innovative new arrangements are great. Erykah Badu demonstrated that in stellar style at her recent Australian shows. But only when the new versions are equally as good as, or better than the originals – and for me, these songs simply weren’t.

Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)

Watch & Listen

Check out these videos of some of those Fugees and Lauryn Hill songs performed live at Sydney Opera House last week…


Ms. Hill

Lauryn Hill is a talented artist with a strong, commanding, charismatic stage presence. The musical direction she gave her band and singers throughout the improvised parts of the show was impressive to watch.

Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)

Lauryn Hill has a stunning, earthly voice like no other in this world. She’s a brilliant emcee. The magnificent part of her show was experiencing that voice live in all its manifestations.  I wanted to hear and appreciate it more than I was able to do amongst the busy sounds from the band.

Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014)

Lauryn Hill has a large catalogue of awesome Lauryn Hill and Fugees songs that could have made up the show’s entire set list. I was disappointed she chose 1 too many cliche, easy-to-please-the-crowd Bob Marley songs to fill that set.

Lauryn Hill earned her place on the Sydney Opera House stage, and any other stage in the world.  It was  enjoyable to hear and see Lauryn Hill perform live  – and a fun experience to be at her show dancing to hip-hop, soul and reggae music in those grand Sydney Opera House halls.

Lauryn Hill Live @ Sydney Opera House (2014) Musically the new song arrangements completely missed the mark for me, sure. But I still look forward to hearing more of Lauryn Hill’s future musical evolution, and hope it involves new music for us all.

Down Memory Lane

Unless & until new songs come, you can take a trip down memory lane with these sample (mp3) Lauryn Hill tracks from recordings released by her as a solo artist post-Fugees. If you haven’t already got these keeper albums in your music collection, you could surely find and buy them on vinyl or cd from your local record store…

Lauryn Hill - Ms Hill (2008)

Ms Hill (2008)

‘How Many Emcees’ –  Ms Hill

 

Lauryn Hill - MTV Unplugged (2002)

MTV Unplugged (2002)

‘Mystery of Iniquity’ – MTV Unplugged

 

Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)

The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)

‘Every Ghetto Every City’ – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

+ one very old-school track from Lauryn Hill’s Fugees days…

Fugees - Blunted On Reality (1994)

Fugees – Blunted On Reality (1994)

‘Some Seek Stardom’ – Fugees – Blunted On Reality (1994)

 

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