This Album Changed My Life: Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

Hvmmingbyrd’s Deborah Byrne on ‘a truly fearless female voice’

I was introduced to this album by my aunt while in the throes of my Junior Cert. Up until that point, my musical education had consisted of snippets of songs I managed to tape from the radio. This was my first cohesive album experience and from the first thump of the toms in Lost Ones, my Walkman and I were inseparable.

As a sheltered teenager, I had never heard music like this before – neo-soul. Hill's seamless transitions from powerful rapping to flawless vocal ornaments to her gut-wrenching lyricism as in the tender Zion (an ode to her newborn son) to straight up truth-telling in Doo Wop (That Thing).

On Superstar, she sings "hip-hop started out in the heart/ now everybody trying to chart". Today, as producers and singer-songwriters in our electronic duo Hvmmingbyrd, our music couldn't be any further from hip-hop or neo-soul but this album will always be a reminder of artistic integrity. "Music is supposed to inspire," is a lofty mandate but if there is anyone who has the right to make artists sit up and listen, it's Ms Lauryn Hill. Hers was and continues to be a truly powerful and fearless female voice.