Song by Song — A Full Album Review of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill


Lukas Werner

American singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill won five Grammys and a Billboard Music Award for Top R&B Album for her solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”

Jasmine McIntosh, Staff Reporter

Some of the songs on the album contain explicit language.

“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, and most influential albums of all time. It is a neo-soul, hip-hop, and R&B 16 song album, released in 1988 by American singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill. With numerous accolades, including five Grammys and a Billboard Music Award for Top R&B Album, “Miseducation” has no shortage of recognition and appreciation. The Rolling Stones even has “Miseducation” ranked as the number 10 album on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. Personally, I find that ranking to be perfect. 

From the upbeat vibe on “Lost Ones” to the heartbreak tunes of “Ex-Factor,” every song on this album delivers in the right way. The range of emotions from one song to the next is what makes this album so enjoyable as it showcases Hill’s vocal range and ability to deeply impact her listeners. 

“Intro (Roll Call)”

The first song on this album isn’t exactly a song. It’s a sound bite of poet and future politician Ras Baraka talking to a group of students in a classroom as soft guitar music plays in the background. He reads an attendance list until he gets to the name Lauryn Hill. He calls her name several times but there is no response and the sound fades out. This was an interesting thing to note as it introduces the idea of “Miseducation.” Hill has not shown up to class, suggesting she is missing out on her education.

“Lost Ones”

This is my favorite song on the album, and probably one of my favorite songs ever. “Lost Ones” has a very spunky beat and the rapping Hill does is so good. 

“Lost Ones” was written after Hill’s breakup with her former Fugees bandmate Wyclef Jean. Many of the lyrics are direct digs at Wyclef’s bold actions and character. It has such an upbeat vibe that you almost forget it’s a breakup song. 

I could spend forever dissecting each and every lyric, but I’ll just point out a few of my favorites. In verse two of the song, Hill makes several clever biblical allusions in regards to the egotistic character of her ex, Wyclef. One line says, “Gained the whole world for the price of your soul.” This is a direct shade to Wyclef taken from Matthew 16:26 in the Bible. Another biblical line is, “Your movement’s similar to a serpent.” In the Bible, the serpent represents sin and temptation.

Overall, I think “Lost Ones” is the best song on this album and one that is worth several listens, as the lyrics and beats are near genius.


This song provides another look at Hill’s relationship with Wyclef. Compared to “Lost Ones,” “Ex-Factor” gives the more typical sound of a breakup song. Hill’s impressive vocals stand out in this song and are complemented by an equally impressive guitar solo towards the end of the song. 

If you’ve had any doubts about the cultural impact of Ms.Hill, look no further. “Ex-Factor” has been sampled countless times by big-name artists such as Drake, Cardi B, and Kehlani. 

“To Zion”

Now we’ve reached one of the more emotional songs on this track. “To Zion” is about Hill’s first son, Zion. In this song, Ms.Hill touches on the many challenges she faced while pregnant and how she kept her head up. 

One important line is, “Look at your career, they said/Lauryn, baby use your head/But instead I chose to use my heart”. Ms.Hill is talking about the pressure she felt to abort her baby in order to save her career, and how she decided to go against that and keep her child. “Miseducation” is made more impressive when you realize that Hill wrote and produced it while heavily pregnant.

Aside from being emotional and touching, To Zion is also very spiritual, with multiple biblical references and the last verse featuring vocals that sound like a Sunday morning gospel choir. 

After the song is done, we get another soundbite from the classroom. This time the teacher is asking the students to think about love and what it really means to them. I love these sound bites because they tie in so well with the songs and make this album truly unique.

“Doo Woop (That Thing)”

Hill delivers another great and especially meaningful song with “Doo Woop.” The underlying message of this song is a warning to all young adults, especially women, to be wary of exploitation by the opposite sex in order to get “that thing.”  

Hill manages to deal with a heavy topic in a classy way. The first half of the song is a heartfelt warning to young women about the dangers of degrading themselves for men and losing self-respect. The second part is a similar warning to young men. The mix of rap and singing is what makes this song so fun to listen to — Hill shows off so many talents at once.

If I could recommend any song on this album for high schoolers to listen to, it would be “Doo Woop.” It takes all the important life lessons of self-preservation, taking the advice of your mentors, and self-respect, and spins them into a catchy and optimistic gem of a song.


If you haven’t caught on to the lyrical genius of Hill yet, you will surely understand it after listening to this song. 

“Superstar” is a song about, well, superstars and their struggles with fame and artistic authenticity. Hill intricately dissects the problem with mainstream music and at one point calls out lazy musicians, saying, “Everything you drop is so tired/Music is supposed to inspire/How come we ain’t getting no higher?” Verse three in particular is an excellent showcase of the talent Hill has when it comes to songwriting. 

The smooth vocals and brilliant lyricism make “Superstar” an easy listen.

“Final Hour”

Another favorite of mine is “Final Hour.” It’s a spunky rap song paired with live instrumentation and a completely original beat. Hill takes us on a journey through her mind. She shares her thoughts on the immorality of materialism and the need to focus on more important lasting principles. It is an especially spiritual song, with Hill explicitly stating how she is reading her Bible and staying calm because of the wisdom she gets from it.

Not only is this a religious song, but it is also a song about racism and the systems that keep Black people down and out of positions of power. One line I really like is in verse two, “And then amend it, every law that ever prevented/Our survival since our arrival documented in The Bible/Like Moses and Aaron, things gon’ change, it’s apparent.” Hill is saying that despite the vigorous efforts from institutions and the government to prevent the success of Black folk, we will overcome oppression and like Moses and Aaron, see the promised land.

“When It Hurts So Bad”

Hill must’ve put her whole soul into this song because it is truly one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard in my young life. 

From the start, we get a shot of the reggae, hip-hop, and heavy R&B infusion that will ensue. Then, we are blessed by the euphonious voice of Hill. Although I cannot relate to the deep heartbreak that Hill sings about, I am moved by the tinge of pain and desperation in her voice. She is singing about a failed relationship that she fought for, and how it made her cry. She advises her listeners to pay attention to all the people and relationships in our lives and what lessons, both good and bad, they might bring about.

As usual, the lyricism of this song is off the charts, but I also want to focus on the angelic vocals that Hill gives to us. At around 2:33 in the song, Hill goes into a beautiful riff and does it with ease. Another noteworthy part of the song starts at 3:40. The mix of instruments and vocals is what one might call a gift from God. For me, it is one of the best moments in R&B music.

I’m sure you’ve gotten the impression that I really love this song, but I highly recommend you take a listen for yourself. Pay attention to the lyrics, the beats, the vocals, all of it. It is something you will not regret.

“I Used To Love Him”

If Hill on her own wasn’t legendary enough, Mary J. Blige joins as a feature on “I Used to Love Him.” I love the sweet combination of their voices and I wish they had done more songs together. 

Again, this isn’t a song I can necessarily relate to, but the emotion in their voices definitely brings me closer to understanding what they felt. My favorite thing about this song is the chorus. It has such a nice vibe and it’s very catchy that I rewind the end just to hear it a little longer. 

Overall, “I Used to Love Him” is a noteworthy feature that deserves all the attention.

“Forgive Them Father”

“Forgive Them Father” is another feature, this time with Jamaican dancehall artist Shelly Thunder. Honestly, this song deserves its own article. It’s a lively mix of rap and soulful singing.

To start, I want to highlight all the biblical references. The name of the song is a direct reference to what Jesus says as he is being crucified and the line, ‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” is repeated many times throughout the song. Then the bridge partway through the song calls out characters who were backstabbed by people close to them. Two of the scenarios mentioned are Cain betraying Abel, and Judas betraying Jesus. 

One more thing I want to draw attention to is the absolutely stellar rapping verse from Hill. In verse two of the song, Hill delivers some incredible rapping and shows why she is the greatest female rapper of all time.

“Every Ghetto, Every City”

As we get towards the end of the album, we are introduced to a little bit of Hills’ life growing up. “Every Ghetto, Every City” is a fun and nostalgic song littered with references to her home state of New Jersey and the things she experienced while growing up. 

One of my favorite things to do when listening to Hill is research the lyrics of her songs because I know they tend to have a deeper meaning and lend a look into her life. That is true for this song, as I spent half an hour tearing into each and every detail this song possessed.

This is another one of my favorite songs on this album because it makes me think of my family and the people who are shaping me into the person I am today.

“Nothing Even Matters”

Another beautiful love song and another duet. “Nothing Even Matters” features American singer, songwriter, and producer D’Angelo. It’s a very smooth, slow song and it was written about Hill’s relationship with Rohan Marley. 

Here is what Hill had to say about the song, “I wanted to make a love song…and give people a humanistic approach to love again without all the physicality and overt sexuality.” 

Although I cannot relate to the song, I still appreciate the wondrous artistry of it.

“Everything Is Everything”

“Everything Is Everything” is another social justice-esque song. It talks about the struggles youth in America face, and more specifically, youth who live in inner cities. This song really doubles down on the power imbalance between the poor and the rich, the privileged and the disenfranchised. It helps me to appreciate the more political side of Hill.

I particularly like verse two because it flows really well and the lyrics are dope. My favorite line is, “Now hear this mixture, where Hip Hop meets scripture (Uh)/Develop a negative into a positive picture.” It perfectly embodies the musical style of Hill and how she masterfully combines modern trends with biblical messages and the play on words in the last line is really clever!

Also, the music video for this song is incredible — check it out here

“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”

We’ve finally reached the title song of the album! I really love this song because it is so personal and feels like a page out of the diary of Hill. There is a lot I could say about this, but I found a quote from Hill that talks more about the song and the meaning behind it.

“…It has a lot to do with how I figured out some things from my life. It doesn’t necessarily mean miseducation like I didn’t do well in school– as I did do good in school– but it has a lot to do with finding out about your own aspirations and your own dreams, and not those dreams and those aspirations that some might have for you. It’s a song about movement and growth and inspiration,” Hill said.

“Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”

The second to last song on this album is a classic! Originally “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” was a remake of a song of the same name by Frankie Valli and it was only supposed to be on the soundtrack for the movie “Conspiracy Theory.” It found its way to the radio and has been a huge hit ever since.

According to project supervisor and engineer Gordon Williams, Hill “was eight months pregnant, laying on her back on the floor, half asleep, holding a handheld mike,” when she recorded the vocals for “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” in one take.

“Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is such a feel-good song and never fails to make me happy. I recommended listening to this song whenever you’re having a bad day because it will surely lighten your mood!

“Tell Him”

Like many of the songs on this album, “Tell Him” is riddled with biblical and spiritual references. This song was not on the original LP and it is believed to be a love song to God. 

I highly recommend that everyone, religious or not, take a listen to this song. It has such a strong message and the beat is incredibly laid back, making it an easy listen. I can listen to this song on repeat and never get tired of it.

One of my favorite lines is in verse two. It says, “Now I may have faith (I may have faith) to make mountains fall

(To make mountains fall)/But if I lack love, then I am nothin’ at all.” I love this line because it reminds me how to live a more Christ-centered life, with love. 

“Tell Him” is the perfect end to a stellar album. It has a chill vibe and includes some of the most important messages Hill shared throughout her album. 



The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is an absolutely divine album that I consider to be one of the greatest pieces of music ever created. Every time I listen to one of Hills’ songs I am brought to another world and I find myself humming or sometimes badly singing along. To say I am in love with this album would be a tragic understatement. 

Every single song pieced together flawlessly. 

The beats are all original and you can tell they’ve been chosen and produced with care.

The vocals, the lyricism, the attention to detail — they are what make this album what it is.