The most recent of these critiques came from jazz pianist and composer Robert Glasper, who alleged that Hill repeatedly changed a planned 2008 show’s content before threatening to cut musicians’ pay in half. Glasper, during an August 13 appearance on Houston radio station 97.9 The Box, also said that Hill commanded musicians to call her “Ms. Hill,” they could not look her in the eye and she stole music from “Miseducation” contributors.
Hill, who now often goes by ”Ms. Lauryn Hill,” broke her silence about Glasper and others’ charges in a lengthy statement that she published on Medium yesterday (August 27).
“People can sometimes confuse kindness for weakness, and silence for weakness as well,” she wrote. “When this happens, I have to speak up.”
Hill framed her response in bullet points, including the following two that appear to address Glasper and others’ criticisms about treatment and payment of guest musicians:
-I am paying for a service, and looking for something SPECIFIC, which isn’t up to someone else’s interpretation or opinion. I have my own idea of what works for me. That shouldn’t offend.
-And I definitely don’t like to fire anyone. It did take me meeting a lot of people over a number of years to find the right musicians, but my current band has been with me for a long time, the newest members probably 2/3 years, some as long as 7/8 years now. I was looking for a similar natural chemistry with new musicians that I’d had with the Fugees and Miseducation bands. I’d literally grown up with some of those musicians. That isn’t easy to find.
Hill also cast doubt on Glasper’s claim about her being paid “half a million dollars” and halving musicians’ pay for the show in question:
-…No idea why any musician would have had knowledge of what I was being paid, not sure what he’s saying is accurate. Don’t have the details or recollection of cutting the band’s pay in half. If fees had been negotiated and confirmed without my knowledge, I may have asked for them to be adjusted. But I would never just cut a musician’s pay arbitrarily unless I had a legitimate reason.
The artist cited her work on “Miseducation” and as a member of The Fugees’ as proof of her legacy and influence:
-What about the image of Black women in hip hop? When exposure and sexualization of the Black female body was the standard, SOMEONE stood up and represented a different image entirely, giving a generation of young women options and alternatives of self-representation. #AMNESIA
As for her requirement that people call her “Ms. Hill,” she said:
-And yes, Ms. Hill was absolutely a requirement. I was young, Black and female. Not everyone can work for and give the appropriate respect to a person in that package and in charge. It was important, especially then, for that to be revealed early.
Hill connected this to a broader dynamic that allows male musicians to demand respect and not be villified for doing so:
-I adore Stevie, and honor Herbie and Quincy, who are our forebears, but they’re not women. Men often can say ‘I want it done like this’ and not be challenged. The same rules don’t always apply for women who may be met with resistance. When this happens, you replace that player with someone who respects you and the office you hold.
Hill rebuked claims that she’s anti-White by challenging the systems that demand Black people shouldn’t speak out about their oppression:
The lengthy history of unfairness and brutality towards people of color, especially Black people, has not been fully acknowledged or corrected. The expectation is for us to live with abuse, distortion, and deliberate policies, meant to outright control and contain us—like we’re not aware of our basic right to freedom. I resist and reject THESE ideas completely. Like many Black people, I work to reconcile my own generational PTSD. I do my best to Love, pursue freedom in body, Spirit and mind…and to confront. To repress everything in the name of “getting along” is to deny our right to healing. It’s an ugly, distorting and complicated history at best. We’ve been shaped by it for better or worse. I just choose not to pretend that it’s not there in order to maintain public approval and gain economic advantage.
Read the full statement at Medium.com.