The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill


Lauryn Hill once reportedly said, "I would rather have my children starve than have white people buy my albums." The authenticity of the quote has been disputed, but there was no disputing her quotes during her sentencing on charges of massive tax evasion.

“I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them,” Hill said before U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo. “I had an economic system imposed on me.”

As a millionaire, Hill had her choice of economic systems anywhere in the world. Her parents were a computer programmer and an English teacher. She grew up in South Orange NJ where the median household income is $123,373 a year. She went to Columbia High School, one of the top schools in the country, and then enrolled at Columbia University. All these are the hallmarks of a privileged life.

And that too is part of a pattern of fake radical black musicians with middle class suburban backgrounds.

Compare that to Ja Rule, who just finished his own sentence for tax evasion, and has the background you would expect a rap star to have.

At his sentencing hearing, Ja Rule said, “I in no way attempted to deceive the government or do anything illegal,” he said minutes before being sentenced. “I was a young man who made a lot of money – I’m getting a little choked up – I didn’t know how to deal with these finances, and I didn’t have people to guide me, so I made mistakes.”

You can sneer at his claims of innocence, but it's a more conventional and far less arrogant plea. And tellingly, Ja Rule was sentenced to 28 months in prison for failing to pay taxes on 3 million dollars. While Lauryn Hill was sentenced to 3 months for evading taxes on 1 million.

The difference is the privilege. Hill's upper class privilege carried her through, despite or rather because of her obnoxious behavior.

Black radicalism these days is largely privilege. It's the privilege of entitled men and women from middle class and upper class backgrounds, trying to get in touch with their inner black panther. Jeremiah Wright and Toure are the embodiments of that brand of entitled radicalism.