Lauryn Hill’s ‘Miseducation’ Collaborators Remember The Album 15 Years Later
After a few months recording in the Northeast, the operation moved down to Jamaica, where Rohan and his family showed the band his father Bob’s old stomping grounds. “It felt like being around the Kennedys of Jamaica,” T says. “They had the cars you couldn’t get, they took us all around the island in a bus they had.”
“When the Rolling Stones went to the Riviera to record, they soaked it up, and when we went to Jamaica we did the same thing,” Jo remembers. “It bled into the music.” The band was there for a little over two weeks, according to Pugh, and it was there that they worked on “Lost Ones,” “Doo Wop (That Thing),” “When It Hurts So Bad” and “Forgive Them Father.” They came back to the States and kept working in New York and New Jersey, heading into the studio every day. “Basically, our life was on hold,” Jo says. “We had family that didn’t see us. If I would’ve dated a girl it would have been someone at the front desk of the studio, just ’cause I’d see her every day. You live your life around that.”
At some point after getting back from Jamaica, the dynamic shifted, and Nobles—to hear the Newtons tell it, at least—convinced the twins to sign a publishing deal with him. [Ed. Note: Vada Nobles did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.] Whatever the level of coercion involved, the twins signed with Nobles in the midst of the project, and as the album neared completion, Nobles was informed that Hill would be taking all the writing and production credits. Nobles and Pugh objected and walked out of the project six months before it dropped, while the Newtons stayed on to finish the album, only to get caught up in the suit after the release due to their deal with Nobles. “We got dragged into a lawsuit that we didn’t even wanna go into,” Jo says.
In the following few months, while the album was breaking records and winning awards, the members of the band who helped Ms. Hill craft it were stuck out in the industry’s version of Siberia. Pugh was passed over for an opportunity to work with Missy Elliott when she found out he was involved in the lawsuit. The Newton brothers watched Hill walk across the Grammy stage five times while at home in their apartment in Los Angeles. The guys were accused of trying to exploit Hill’s newfound superstardom. A three-year legal mess kept tensions high and morale low. “You have to get your mind right, because you don’t know, maybe you did something great,” says Jo. “We could’ve made three or four more albums [together], but the lawsuit [messed] everything up.”
Eventually the stigma came off, and the members of New Ark began working in the industry again. Nobles and Pugh remained a team for a number of years, working with Faith Evans and Heather Headley, before going their separate ways; Nobles scored a huge coup by writing and producing Rihanna’s “Pon De Replay,” while Pugh was on Ghostface’s “Good” as his alter ego Mr. Maygreen and recently dropped a new album. The Newton brothers stayed in L.A. after Miseducation‘s release, working with Nelly and Queen Latifah and scoring films—now, back on the East Coast, they’ve signed a production deal with singer Nikki Cara with an eye toward building a roster of artists. Fifteen years later, much of the bitterness has ebbed away.
“We created something that is still missing today,” says Pugh. “They need another album just like that right now. Don’t preach to them, don’t act like you’re better than them, talk to them.”
“I saw an authorized biography of Lauryn [at a bookstore one day],” Jo says. “I picked it up, and I saw my name in it, along with T, Vada and Kilo. And I was like, ‘Okay, that’s all right.’ People wrote about us. It took us a lot of places—it took us around the world. I met so many people. It allowed me to play with Aretha Franklin. That particular album was what was in Lauryn’s head, and we just took it and amplified it. It was just a great period for music.” —Dan Rys (@danrys)