A Track By Track Breakdown Of ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’
“To Zion” (featuring Carlos Santana)
Jo: “Zion” is funny, because Lauryn and I were sitting in the kitchen at the big house, and she came in and was like, “This is what I was thinking in the shower. You know there’s an African proverb that kids pick the parents that they come through? So I wrote this down.” And I just said Lauryn, this is something that you must do, because me and Kilo tried to write a song about that and failed miserably. I was 24—I didn’t have any thoughts about any children. So she told me she had been thinking about this for that beat, which was just a sample. And then we had real drums in there. She wrote “Zion” lyrically on her own; it was something that she needed to write.
Kilo: I did all the arrangements—the “marching, marching to Zion”—while she was in the booth. When she was in the booth singing the words, I was already creating the arrangements to go behind her words. When she finished one verse, I already had the backgrounds ready for that verse.
“Doo Wop (That Thing)”
Jo: The last few verses we were sparring—”Quick to shoot the semen/Stop acting like boys and be men”—I was coming up with lines like that. I would give her an idea—the rhythm I was concerned about, changing her rhythm. We just started painting pictures, just saying words that rhyme. Lauryn’s really responsible for the way that one goes—she said she wanted to do a doo wop song. I was like, you wanna rap on that? Every song had a piece of Jamaica in it—every time you hear horns it was Jamaica, strings were probably New York. We sat down and did the majority at Chung King [Studio, in New York]. One night, I was like Lauryn, let’s write a song about a pregnant girl, and she was like, “I don’t know if I want to do that.” She was like, why don’t we talk about a friend, like a guy—”Remember he told you he was ’bout the Benjamins?”—and suddenly we just started adding to it, but we didn’t have a hook. That thing. She was like, “Okay.” We were looking for a single, and it turned out to be the first single. Every piece had a piece of Jamaica in it.
Kilo: We actually got it from a doo wop record. There was one song where the piano was really similar, and then the whole “Yeah yeah,” all of that was just hot. And in Jamaica they had the live horns put on it. That’s me singing—I’m the one that goes, [Sings] that real low note, all that in the background. That was fun.
Jo: That was me and my brother’s total collaboration as far as producers. She kinda had those chords, and it sounded weird to me. Then she put the clav on it, and I was like, this sounds like “Light My Fire.” Every time, I would tell her that. And now I know what she was going for, but it sounded like “Light My Fire.” All she was missing was that jazz riff. She was like “Okay,” and added it in. I thought that was a smart idea if we could get the clearance. It was giving homage. I was a teenage kid who loved The Doors.
Jo: We wrote that over an Aretha Franklin break beat, and then she decided to get Premier to do the beat. But me and [Lauryn] wrote it.
Kilo: It had three different beats—we had all kinds of beats while she was doing “Final Hour.” That was one of those songs that she was kind of piecing together raps, it came together with different raps. It wasn’t just, let me sit down and write “Final Hour.” She had several pieces of paper and she would just grab it and keep going. [Laughs]