Lauryn Hill Turns R&B Gold Into Reggae-Funk Sing-Along

Brooklyn Bowl, May 14

Photo by Erik Kabik/ Retna/

It’s been 16 years since elusive singer and rapper Lauryn Hill dropped her only solo release—the highly revered The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill—and 18 years since her Fugees crew’s award-winning The Score. Needless to say, I came prepared to wax nostalgic about hip-hop’s golden era and hit on 40-year-old divorcées. What we got was even more old school. Her band delivered explosive reinventions of L. Boogie’s timeless joints, giving soulful ballads reggae, funk and rock makeovers with drifts to doo-wop, gospel and ’60s soul. “Killing Me Softly” was backed by a thick reggae riddim (and reprised as a piano ballad later in the set); “Final Hour” got a Latin bounce; and “Lost Ones” went from a fiery battle rap to a slow dub and back again.

Throughout the nearly two-hour set, Ms. Hill led her band like a conductor, hushing her backup singers, signaling solos and conjuring crescendos, stretching some songs to 10 minutes. Following hits from Miseducation, she returned for a round of Fugees tracks, setting the crowd into a roar when she performed “Fu-Gee-La.” As if our senses hadn’t already been overloaded, she came back again for Bob Marley covers before closing with the cautionary hit “Doo Wop (That Thing)”—the line Showing off your ass ’cause you’re thinking it’s a trend a reminder that in a world where Nicki and Iggy dominate, we could still use Lauryn’s lessons. ★★★★✩

Soul Rebel (Bob Marley cover)
Killing Me Softly
Everything Is Everything
Final Hour
To Zion
Lost Ones

Encore (performing The Fugees songs)

How Many Mics
Ready or Not
Killing me Softly (reprise)

Second Encore

Waiting in Vain (Bob Marley Cover)
Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley Cover)
Doo Wop (That Thing)

Photos by Erik Kabik/ Retna/