Lauryn Hill appeared on stage 40 minutes late at Bluesfest Tuesday night, struggled through some uninspired remixes from her 14-year-old solo album—and then came alive and started rapping the Hell out of some Fugees classics.
A DJ and drummer killed time for the first 40 minutes. When they played an old song with her voice on it the crowd got its collective hopes up and started to cheer, and went back to waiting.
Hill finally came on stage and gave a one-word shout out to “Ottawa,” her voice breaking.
It wasn’t clear she still had a voice when she opened with a reggae version of “Killing Me Softly,” or sped-up remixes of songs off her multiple-Grammy-winning 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
She tore through “Everything is Everything,” “Superstar,” “Forgive them father,” and “Lost Ones,” barely audible over her guitar-heavy backing band.
Hill’s voice wasn’t just lost in the band that played with the subtlety of Nickleback, she avoided any high notes, choosing lower harmonies and letting her three backup singers carry her.
She looked uncomfortable singing, constantly fidgeting with her monitor and pulling away from the microphone.
Fourteen years ago Hill once called out rap rivals on Miseducation, singing “C’mon baby light my fire / Everything you drop is so tired / Music is supposed to inspire.”
A generation of female hip-hop artists was inspired, but Hill has produced little since and the remixes of her old songs stripped away her inspiring soul sound and groundbreaking production.
But when Hill reached back further to her career with the Fugees everything changed. She killed “How many mics,” “Fu-gee-la” and “Ready or not” rapping new life into the old songs and smiling like she was enjoying herself for the first time.
“That was fun, right?” she asked the crowd after “Fu-gee-la.”
She sang “Killing me softly” again, staying truer to her original cover of the Roberta Flack song this time, and left the stage.
Hills recording of “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” came through the speakers and she returned to sing her part of the duet, which she first recorded in 1999 using a vintage tape of her children’s famous grandfather, Bob Marley.
She ended the show by bringing her kids on stage and letting them sing and rap.
“They call me Marley, I ride the beat like a Harley,” rapped the adorable 10-year-old Joshua Marley.
After starting late Hill also ended late, delaying Snoop Dogg’s start on the main stage, making him perform a shorter-than-scheduled set.