You know, so what if Lauryn Hill only managed to give us one album?
Once a year, like clockwork, a holier than thou music mag will deal with the subject of Lauryn Hill and her increased reclusiveness and lack of new material post-TMLH. The article will act as a part lament, part bitter treatise on “wasted” talent and potential. “She would have been epic if she had just dumped the Marley/not have had kids/never left the Fugees/something awkward about Wyclef.” Expect a ton of posturing, lofty grandiose statements, and all the shoulda coulda wouldas at which to shake your pinky.
But how many of us get to that level of greatness, even least once? How many of us have seven Harry Potters in our back pockets or Godfather sequels (because, let’s be honest, the third movie wasn’t real). I’m not necessarily speaking to the idea of an expiration of talent, but perhaps to an expiration of drive. It’s a dodgy disease that plagues all of us creative types (I laugh at this term every time I hear it, as we are the sole holders of the copyright for inspiration) at least once every few months. The urge to stay in bed with the covers drawn over our heads, to queue up Netflix and not give any beautiful fucks about the project festering away on your computer, unfinished and overworked to the point of mental exhaustion. Or crazy á la The Beach Boys’ SMiLE sessions. Or worse, one who manages to rise to a decent type of personal occasion, time and time again, only to receive that delicious red badge of rejection and letters beginning with words like “we like you but we don’t like you” (I have a Gmail tab specifically devoted to these expressions). Why bother? Why fetter with the suck? Can I get my 90k back for this useless degree? How are the health benefits with Kohls?
And then, to speak to the reversal, to get to a level of diverse critical admiration and respect, like Lauryn, and then to find yourself without words, or pathway for the new A to Z. Instead, you’re teeming in things like fogs and clouds and obscure “concepts”. You find yourself reaching for the next tangible goal and coming up with “interesting” puffs of smoke. I don’t know what’s worse. Having too many sprigs and leaks of inspiration or waking up one morning after quiet dreams to find the well barren, stolen away from your synapses like a clever and unrelenting thief?
And I’m not saying that I’m connected enough to even inference about the causation behind the follow-up to TMLH, or whether the now infamous Unplugged session was the picture of an artist completely losing their shit on public platform. But if fear or exhaustion, or the lack of will is the answer? Well, then… I get it.
I totally get it.
For me, the solution is keeping the toes dipped and slapping myself regularly with the reminder that this twisted road with the errant roots and shadowy places is the one I’ve chosen for happiness. And as long as I continue to see past the haze, and I smile at least once a day, I’m content.
But the dreamer that I keep tucked away, hopes that I get the opportunity to touch wonder someday, not unlike the way I feel when I hear backbeat in “Forgive Them Father” or cheeky 60s vibe on “Doo Wop (That Thing)” or the subtle knife of pain/love radiating from “When It Hurts So Bad”. To one day see a jacket in Barnes (please let them have Barnes & Noble in the FUTURE, or else) with my goofy little face on it, the epitome of life blood and mild narcissism. And more so, to transfer that wonder to a surly teen, a spirit akin to this little girl I know from Tejas that read behind couches, and for a moment, to have our souls connected through language, emotion, and honest to Jehovah, miracle of accomplishment.
Man. That’s heady. Where can I get that on the street?
Florence Sarah Davies is a twenty-something writer who’s learning the Jay-Zian hardknocks while in pursuit of her MFA in Writing & Literature at Stony Brook Southampton. As a native Texan with parts of her heart located in Long Island, she’s currently in search of her next bold move.