Lauryn Hill’s name has stayed in the news and blogs in recent years for everything but the music that we all loved and appreciated. Her recent tax troubles have gone public as she was set to face jail time for owing almost $1 million to the government. Everyone has harshly criticized her decisions. From the outside looking in, she was the womyn who could have anything that she wanted yet continually made poor decisions in her absence from music to her relationships. While I can’t speak on what is happening in her personal life, I do think that we all need to give Ms.Hill a break when it comes to the struggle between artistry and the music business.
No matter what type of artist you are – singer, painter, comedian, etc.- there is always going to be a battle between being true to your art and getting the payment and business respect that you deserve. Especially in the music business, people see these artists flashing their money and fancy homes so we believe that their life and decisions are easy but really sometimes they have to sacrifice their art and what they truly want to do in order to remain financially successful. There are some artists that are just not willing to do this, Lauryn Hill being one of them and anyone remember Dave Chappell running away from his multi-million dollar deal because it felt like too much of a departure from what he originally thought he wanted?
Lauryn recently posted to her Tumblr account, a letter to her fans to explain her issues with her taxes and her new deal with Sony. I think that she brought up a lot of interesting points that echo that struggle between artistry and capital. Check out what she had to say here:
It has been reported that I signed a new record deal, and that I did this to pay taxes. Yes, I have recently entered into an agreement with Sony Worldwide Entertainment, to launch a new label, on which my new music will be released. And yes, I am working on new music.I’ve remained silent, after an extensive healing process. This has been a 10+ year battle, for a long time played out behind closed doors, but now in front of the public eye. This is an old conflict between art and commerce… free minds, and minds that are perhaps overly tethered to structure. This is about inequity, and the resulting disenfranchisement caused by it. I’ve been fighting for existential and economic freedom, which means the freedom to create and live without someone threatening, controlling, and/or manipulating the art and the artist, by tying the purse strings.It took years for me to get out of the ‘parasitic’ dynamic of my youth, and into a deal that better reflects my true contribution as an artist, and (purportedly) gives me the control necessary to create a paradigm suitable for my needs. I have been working towards this for a long time, not just because of my current legal situation, but because I am an artist, I love to create, and I need the proper platform to do so.The nature of my new business venture, as well as the dollar amount reported, was inaccurate, only a portion of the overall deal. Keep in mind, my past recordings have sold over 50,000,000 units worldwide, earning the label a tremendous amount of money (a fraction of which actually came to me).Only a completely complicated set of traps, manipulations, and inequitable business arrangements could put someone who has accomplished the things that I have, financially in need of anything. I am one artist who finds value in openly discussing the dynamics within this industry that force artists to compromise or distort themselves and what they do, rather than allowing them to make the music that people need. There are volumes that could (and will) be said.MLH