There are only 22 albums in hip-hop history that have been christened with a perfect XXL rating. Amongst that rare ilk sits Lauryn Hill's 1998 classic, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
The 16-track album is filled with powerful messages, perfect songwriting and technically sound rapping. Not only is her solo debut scripture-worthy, her group work with the Fugees was also tremendously influential. From Talib Kweli to Nicki Minaj, Ms. Hill's peers and musical successors have paid homage in one way, shape or form. That appreciation often materializes via sampling.
Songs by Lauryn Hill—and by extension, the Fugees—seem to be such popular source material as a result of her wide-ranging musical palate. On some tracks she'd hum a smooth melody, whereas others find her belting out strong choruses or running through rapid-fire lyrics. Plus, the beat breaks and drum patterns to which she'd flow are nostalgia ultra.
This month, L-Boogie has returned to the music spotlight in a major way, thanks to some of today's hottest artists. Cardi B sampled the legendary rapper/singer's classic song "Ex Factor" for her own scorned anthem "Be Careful." Drake doubled down with a sample of the same song on his new hit single "Nice For What," placing Ms. Hill's riffs in the forefront. And for good measure, King Combs looped up the Fugees on "Bad Boy Back," from his new mixtape, 90's Baby.
In the midst of a Lauryn Hill resurgence in spirit, XXL took a look back at some of the hardest songs to sample the music icon, listed in reverse chronological order.
King Combs' 90's Baby mixtape is peak nostalgia. As its title indicates, the project finds Diddy's son, Christian Combs, paying homage to the decade in which he was born. He uses the Fugees' iconic "Fu-Gee-La" vocal rhythm as the foundation for his declaration that he's bringing bad Boy back. The sample keeps the same easygoing tempo as the original, with variations in pitch.
Drake's latest single "Nice For What" repurposes the same portion of Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor" that Cardi B's "Be Careful" employs. Difference is, he enlists Murda Beatz and 40 to chop the "care for me" lyric and make it the song's lead sound. He weaves through the sample with verses about independent women "piping up" on their male counterparts.
Cardi B is the new chick on the block, but she pays homage to the female hip-hop icons who paved her way. Her scorned track "Be Careful" pulls the bridge from Lauryn HIll's "Ex-Factor," delivering it in a similar tone: "Care for me, care for me/Always said that you'd be there for me." Feelings of love, lust and loss are the common threads between both records.
"Forever and Always"Nick Grant
Nick Grant hopped on a sample of Lauryn Hill's "Doo-Wop (That Thing)" for his own "Forever and Always." The pitch and tempo of her 1998 track is warped and stretched out of shape, yet Nick pulls it all together with potent bars spat over catchy drums.
"X Factor"PnB Rock Featuring A Boogie Wit da Hoodie
PnB Rock took the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach to "X Factor," a song that appears on his debut album. There are only minor tweaks made to Ms. Hill's "Ex-Factor"—the keys, drums and hi-hats are modified—but he makes the song his own with fresh, smoothly delivered lyrics that do justice to the original.
"Nas Album Done"DJ Khaled Featuring Nas
"I remember the 1st time I heard the angelic voice of Lauryn Hill singing Ooooh La La La...It was like a voice from heaven," DJ Khaled wrote on Instagram, in a caption thanking the Fugees for allowing him, 808-Ray and Cool & Dre to flip their 1995 track "Fu-Gee-La" for his 2015 track "Nas Album Done." Pairing the iconic vocals with contemporary trap elements made the song one of Khaled's best album cuts and provided a canvas for Nas to prove once again that he's one of the most technically gifted rappers of all time. And even though it wasn't an official collaboration, hearing Nas' rhymes and Lauryn's vocals is reminiscent of "If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)." For now, though, we're just imagining a Nas album that is actually done.
"Real One"Fabolous Featuring Jazzy
Fab tackled Lauryn's "Lost Ones" for his Summertime Shootout mixtape. The sample appears front-and-center—almost distractingly so—driving the rhythm of the song. Fab even sets off the track with a clever Fugees reference that shouts out Ms. Hill: "Heard she in between dudes, just like Lauryn."
"Lituation" is a classic Fabolous punchline parade that anchors one of his best albums. The lead single off The Young OG Project samples Lauryn's classic "Lost Ones," lifting her opening gambit, "It's funny how money change a situation."
When Drake was dominating summer 2014 with an onslaught of SoundCloud cuts, he managed to squeeze in a perfect Lauryn Hill sample on "Draft Day." By sampling the memorable vocal breakdown on "Doo-Wop (That Thing)," Drake turned Lauryn's cautionary tale into a pseudo-ode to professional ballers Johnny Manziel and Andrew Wiggins. He even brought Ms. Hill out to OVO Fest that summer to perform her classic song that seamlessly transitioned into his version.
"My Song"Rapsody Featuring Mela Machinko
Producer 9th Wonder borrowed the keys from Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor" for Rapsody's "My Song." The Snow Hill, North Carolina lyricist pays her back by referencing Ms. Hill several times throughout the 2013 track, with lines like, "I ain't the next Ms/ Hill/I ain't the next him or her, I'm just the one y'all feel" and "I had a dream I met Lauryn Hill we had a heart to heart/She told me how to play the industry and keep my heart."
Quasimoto's 2013 album Yessir Whatever is filled with some serious underground bops, but the Madlib-produced "LAX to JFK" stands out most. There are several interjected samples—one of which is taken from Lauryn's "Doo-Wop (That Thing)." He drops in her riffs to add some vibrancy to the boom-bap beat.
In preparation for his critically acclaimed Born Sinner album, Cole dropped a loosie that samples Lauryn's "Nothing Even Matters." The original cut featured D'Angelo, who also delivered some smooth vocals. But it was Lauryn's delicate crooning that Cole pitched up and used as the beat's backbone. "This sample was yellin' 'loop me!" Cole raps, before pleading. "Ms. Hill, please don't sue me."
"Can I Holla At Ya"J. Cole
J. Cole lifted Carlos Santana's Spanish guitar riff from Lauryn Hill's "To Zion" for "Can I Holla At Ya," from his Yours Truly EP. The result: a candid, four-minute ode to his father and stepfather that will give you chills.
Lil B's "Money Over Suckas" track is a simple sample of Lauryn's "Ex-Factor," with the original instrumental slowed and pitched-down with a few added claps.
One of Meek Mill's best mixtapes, Dreamchasers 2, used a classic Fugees sample to evoke his explosive attitude. "Ready Or Not" uses the beat from The Fugees 1996 hit of the same name, adding a few filters on top, courtesy of producer All Star. Meek pays homage lyrically, too. He starts the 2012 song by echoing Lauryn Hill: "Ready or not, here I come."
"Soul Rising"Blu and Exile
"Soul Rising" finds Blu kicking off his verse with a nod to Lauryn HIll's "Superstar": "Cause yo hip-hop/It started out in the heart."
Method Man is a cutthroat lyricist who often goes ballistic over grimy beats. But sometimes he needs to slow things down. "Say" is an acoustic rap ballad that allows Meth to vent over a simple vocal-and-guitar sample from Lauryn's "So Much Things To Say." The sample is broken-up perfectly, retaining the same vulnerable tone of Lauryn's original track.
"All Falls Down"Kanye West Featuring Syleena Johnson
Kanye doesn't take no for an answer. While crafting his classic debut album The College Dropout, Yeezy lifted a portion of "Mystery of Iniquity" from Lauryn's 2002 MTV Unplugged live album for his own "All Falls Down." He wasn't able to get approval to sample the song, so he enlisted Syleena Johnson to interpolate the part, providing smoother, more polished vocals that lack Lauryn's raw, raspy emotion but still manage to get the point across. Still, an early leaked version with Lauryn's sampled vocals lives on, because the internet.
"Knock Yourself Out"Jadakiss Featuring Pharrell
Jadakiss traded in grimy NYC production for the Neptunes' slick futuristic sonics on "Knock Yourself Out." There's no musical sampling of L-Boogie here, but he references a line from her song "Lost Ones" in his third verse, rapping, "And you might win some, but you just lost one/Kiss miseducates 'em like Lauryn Hill."
"Know That"Mos Def Featuring Talib Kweli
One of the strongest tracks on Mos Def's Black on Both Sides album is "Know That," featuring Black Star counterpart Talib Kweli. Multiple parts of Lauryn's "The Sweetest Thing" vocal performance are chopped to perfectly fit into Ayatollah's blissful boom-bap framework.