The Rizzle Review – Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill, music, Reviews

When you think of Lauryn Hill, many images come to mind. For many, it’s this:

For others, it’s this:

Yes, when I was first offered the chance to visit the elusive Miss Hill (as she apparently likes to be called) in concert, my initial reaction was one of nostalgia. A time back in the late 90’s of hazy summer afternoons and ‘Everything is Everything’ being played on repeat at our family friend’s BBQ. 

But of course, that was 14 years ago and a lot has changed in that time. After that amazing debut album and a controversial unplugged album, Ms Hill has been largely reclusive, only resurfacing for a few random performances. Reviews were generally mixed, from poor vocals to questionable song re-arrangements (Ex Factor in treble time, anyone?), so my expectations were low.

*sigh*

The warm-up act was DJ Target, who put on a very stellar set playing old school hip-hop and reggae/dancehall before the main act appeared. My first surprise was that she came on pretty much on time – official word was 9pm but she came on at roughly 9:30pm (still gotta maintain some diva tendencies, y’all).

The second thing that struck me was the strength of her voice. I was expecting something hoarse and raspy but the sound coming through those speakers when she first made her way to the stage via a reggae/rock rendition of ‘Killing Me Softly’ was enough to give the crowd goosebumps.

Ms Hill performed the majority of the tracks from her breakthrough album ‘The Miseducation of…’ but switched up most of the songs halfway through with entirely new arrangements, which contrary to prior reports actually pushed these classics straight into the present day. Yes, some songs could probably have been left in their original form (Ex Factor, Lost Ones) but I don’t think this really mattered too much. It could even be said that these arrangements served as a glimpse of what a 2012 Lauryn Hill album would sound like perhaps?

My personal highlight of the show was when she went through a Fugees breakdown, evoking memories of being in my dad’s car or staying up late to watch ‘Flava’ on channel 4. ‘Fugee La’, ‘How Many Mics’ and ‘Ready or Not’ got the crowd hyped during the second half of the show and these were played more or less in the original format.

By this time, you could tell that Lauryn was becoming more and more comfortable with performing and even briefly gave some clues to the crowd about why it has taken her so long to get to this point in her life. You could see that she genuinely looked happy to be there and interacted with the audiences members, even singing happy birthday to one lucky individual.

Slightly erratic gaps between songs (perhaps a sound check hadn’t been performed earlier) and wardrobe malfunctions (poor choice of dress) aside, the concert served as a reminder to everyone why we fell in love with Lauryn Hill all those years ago. Above all, I was just happy to see one of the legendary entertainers that was such a part of my childhood and teenage years back on stage, happy, sane and doing what she does best. I’m not holding my breath for a new album anytime soon but hey, who even needs one based on this performance.

The Dead-End West End

Clubs, London, music

I went clubbing recently and had one of those rare occurrences – I actually enjoyed every night out. Thursday was a west London thing, Friday we hit South London, Saturday – East and finally Sunday was north. There’s only one place missing from that mix: Central London (or the West End as the locals call it). Indeed, I have no doubt that had one of those nights involved a trip up West, it would have almost certainly ended in disappointment.

When I was younger, there was nothing more exciting than a night out in central London. The music was great, the girls were hot, the clubs were huge. However, over time these seemingly magical elements have been eroded away as each night became more mediocre than the last.

For a while I just couldn’t put my finger on why these nights were becoming so lackluster but now after a few nights out in places where I have had a good time, I believe I have finally managed to pinpoint why West End clubbing is the pits.

1. Mainstream R&B hurts my soul

In 2012, if you go to an R&B night you are almost guaranteed to hear music from any one of the following: Taio Cruz, David Guetta, Flo-Rida and to some extent, JLS. Now, I’m not one to knock another man’s hustle and I may even begrudgingly catch myself nodding my head to the occasional Taio hit (his tunes are catchy, damnit), but not one of the aforementioned acts can honestly classify themselves as real R&B. And yet club promoters and mainstream DJ’s still insist on polluting the club nights with their music. I’m trying to get my dougie on, bust a little robot but I can’t do that when there’s europop being blasted out of the speakers.

via musicofelectro.files.wordpress.com

Another habit that these clubs seem to do is play R&B songs but then mix them with dance beats thus rendering the original syrupy goodness, unrecognisable. I mean, one or two are OK, but a whole night of this?? Is this really what we’re doing now?

2. DJ’s Are Too Safe

In 2002, when I’d just started out on the clubbing scene, I would get to the club and hear tunes from 2002.

In 2012, when I go out in the West, I get to the club and hear tunes from 2002.

10 years have passed and DJ’s are still playing “Hot in herrre”. My friend recently said she went to a student night in Brighton and the DJ’s were playing all the songs that we used to listen to when we were at Uni. So just what is going on?? What happened to the days when DJ’s would take risks and drop a song that nobody knew? Wasn’t it the DJ’s job to break new artists? I don’t see how that will happen when we’re still hearing Fatman Scoop, Usher’s Yeah and other so called hits. It’s a sad state of affairs that most of these mainstream clubbers will never hear a Drake or a Rick Ross song in the club these days as we’re too busy with the standard early naughties playlist

3. People Don’t Dance No More

On the rare occasions that I actually make it to a club in the West End and the music is good and I want to shake a leg (in the proverbial sense) I usually look around to judge the vibe. At this point I’m usually met with disapproving looks from guys posted up against the wall, arms folded looking angry. The conversation between myself and my mates usually goes like this:

Me: Wow, the music is sounding really good in there. Can’t wait to dance and have a good time.
Friend: Are you sure? This crowd look like the type of people who will give you a beat down if you look like you’re having too much fun.
Me: Oh.


Yep, in these tough times of recession and frugality, it seems as if in certain clubs, dancing and having a good time is frowned upon. If you’re not “screwfacing” and acting hard in the club then you’re not a real man and people will look down on you. I’m not advocating an all out ‘You Got Served’ style dance-off in this dancery (my jeans are too tight and my clothes are too damn nice these days), but a few choice moves and some smiles on faces wouldn’t be entirely out of place surely?

So…

After coming to the above conclusions, what’s my stance on West End clubbing? I guess they’re caught in a trap where they have to be all things to all people, hence playing that watered-down R&B that’s so popular nowadays. When they do play anything remotely related to what I call ‘real R&B’, it’s likely to be the tried and tested tunes from 10 years back that will get the mainstream crowd nostalgic of a simpler time *sighs*.

But listen up, club promoters – I will not be fooled by your attempts at selling me a fabricated clubbing dream born out of laziness. I’ve sampled alternatives outside the West End… and I can tell you… it is good. Music that hasn’t been watered down, tunes that have come out in the last decade and an atmosphere full of good vibes, dancing and shiny, happy people. Yes, there is more to life than the West End and as soon as the clubs, promoters and the tourists realise this, we can all enjoy 2012 clubbing just that bit better.

So what do you think? Do you still enjoy clubbing or has it become a cliched experience? How can it be made better? Am I right? Or are there other factors coming into play in this West End clubbing conundrum?