Lauryn Hill Reigns the Stage in Orange County Performance

It was an epic night at the Observatory, as it welcomed the greatest female in hip hop to the city of Santa Ana (CA) for the first time.

Let’s take it back to 1994 when a beautiful, wise, and lyrically gifted young woman, who called herself “L-Boogie”, took the rap game by storm along with Pras and Wyclef Jean. Together, the trio became The Fugees- one of the most influential groups to grace hip hop music and culture in the 90’s.

Since it’s initiation, Hip-Hop has been a man’s sport- created, built, and ran by men- leaving little to no room for women to rise up to par within the genre. A few women have came, gained our attention, then left and have been forgotten. It’s a tough industry for women to break into when RESPECT is the prime focus embedded within the culture.
Some women over-sexualize their content, some dumb-down their lyrical ability to push numbers, and some feel the need to strip their feminine role to stand shoulder to shoulder with the men running the game. It takes a special kind of woman, with the right mindset and talent to step into this game with just the right mixture of all these qualities.

In 1994, Hip Hop witnessed a rising phenomena- a young, poised, appealing, witted, and sagacious woman who would soon leave an imprint that to this day remains untouched. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m speaking of none other than Ms. Lauryn Hill.

The Observatory OC alongside Out The House Productions came together to bring Lauryn Hill to the city of Santa Ana (CA) for the first time. November 19, 2014 will be a night remembered indefinitely by all of music lovers who were in attendance at the Observatory venue.
The building filled a little over capacity with enthusiastic Lauryn Hill fans who anxiously waited for her presence. The stage displayed all kinds of instruments set in place, ready to be used for a live-band performance.

Lauryn Hill made a household name for herself, not only attracting hip hop admirers but also appealing to a R&B and Soul audience. With only two Fugee projects and two projects of her own under her belt,The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) and MTV. Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002), Lauryn Hill has managed to still hold the acclaim, support, respect, and love from her fans despite controversy and inconsistent music production. The support was evident through the number of people present this night.

In recent years, fans and concert going critics have expressed great disappointment concerning Ms. Hill‘s live performances. We really didn’t know what to expect, from reports stating poor stage presence and lack of communication with her band, to erratic behavior (as described by the media) concerning her twice late arrival to her sets at Voodoo Fest two weeks prior to this night.

Despite her publicly documented shortcomings, Ms. Hill proved the contrary at the Observatory OC and delivered nothing short from a spectacular show!

The Queen was prompt to her set-time and was welcomed with an ecstatic uproar of cheerful screams from her fans. She stepped onto the front of the stage ever-so fashionable- mixing a classy, sophisticated-chic, and grown look with a slight touch of urban steelo as she incorporated a sequenced black and gold letter-man jacket to her circle skirt, printed tights, and black turtle neck. She accessorized the outfit with a black floppy hat which drew attention to her glowing face which wore subtle make-up. She still had that young fresh look to her, hardly displaying any signs of aging since “L-Boogie” days.

Ms. Hill performed a one hour-plus minute set. Like I mentioned previously, we didn’t know exactly what to expect, many of us were surprised at what was happening. Ms. Hill rocked an acoustic mini-set of her MTV Unplugged album, She then proceeded to do tracks off her famous and critically acclaimed 1998 solo debut, but what happened next was unexpected.

“Can I take y’all back?” she asked the crowd. They responded to her in screams of precipitated excitement. “I said, can I take y’all back?”– the same response followed.

Suddenly, “How Many Mics” started being executed by the band- “L-Boogie” was in the house!
It was a sweet and nostalgic feeling witnessing her rip the mic as she performed the Fugee tracks that made us fall in love with her. She paused to intake all the applause for a minute and then indicated to the band and DJ to drop the beat, and then “Ready or Not” began to play. The song was recognizable instantly and everyone went crazy.

I don’t think anyone really expected her to perform Fugee tracks other than “Killing Me Softly”, especially being almost an hour into her set. Ms. Hill went on to do the hits along with a few other tracks like “Zealots” and “Fu-gee-la”. She definitely put us in awe and let it be reminded that she is still one to render full respect to.

She ended her hour set with a few extra minutes of tribute to Bob Marley compositions. She started off with her featured track “Turn the Lights Down Low” and proceeded to sing tracks like “Could You Be Loved” among others.
Ms. Hill left the stage so gracefully, thanking everyone for attending and showing her support. In the midst of every “thank you”, fans couldn’t contain themselves and just cheerfully screamed and boasted their admiration. “Nothing but love for y’all, nothing but love!” she continued, and the screaming continued.

She disappeared backstage, out of complete sight for a few minutes. The venue was half cleared out when the unexpected occurred once again. Lauryn Hill walked back to the front of the stage and allowed the remaining fans to snap pictures with her.

I was watching all this unfold from the upstairs balcony, and was left in complete shock that after all the time she spent performing, she still came back out and showed appreciation and humbled herself to her fans. At one point my eyes watered at the excitement of watching this. There was a moment when a young man ran back to his friend crying and at the same time full of joy that Lauryn had just signed his jacket, my empathy got the best of me when I saw his reaction.

It’s a great feeling witnessing how much music can touch a person’s life and how a artist’s craft, words, and thoughts, can have such an impact in someone. I’m the type of listener that is often touched by music. I choose to listen to certain artists, like Lauryn, to relate to, to uplift me when I’m down, or kick some knowledge and wisdom through their experiences and storytelling abilities within their art.

To me, seeing someone so happy off meeting their favorite artist to the point of being in tears makes me happy because, although I’m not even old at all, I remember being that young kid once- and it’s the greatest feeling ever!
I was amazed that Ms. Hill stayed about another 35 to 40 minutes after her performance, getting to each and every one of her fans that stayed just hoping she would come back out and do an encore or something. Well, they definitely got a bit more than what they bargained for.

You’d think that an artist of her stature would just up and leave as soon as she was done, right? But then again if you know what Lauryn is really about, then the humility should come as no surprise. However, understand that it is a rarity and Santa Ana, CA was privileged to have her presence and to have her feel so much love and support from all her fans on this night to make her want to give it all back in the end.

No matter how much the industry tries to point out otherwise, there is only one real Queen on the hip hop thrown and that is Ms. Hill. It’s not about the numbers, not about the consistency, not about the club hits. It’s about the grace, about the confidence, the inner beauty, the unapologetic intellectual expression, and most importantly the RESPECT. I know that all the real hip hop admirers have to agree with me on this one. Lauryn Hill is a true Queen in all sense of the word.
It was an honor to have the one and only of her kind- Lauryn Hill at the Observatory OC. Out The House Productions is also honored to have been part of this night.

All we got to say in regards to the Queen is: the rumors of Ms. Hill falling off ain’t true. She still got it as if it was 1994!

Stace Fresh

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