“Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill (1998)

Oh, Ms. Hill. Where do we start?

I flipped my shit for Miseducation back in 1998. Lauryn Hill seemed to have it all; brains (she was a Columbia student), talent, beauty, a maturity that belied her age. She was only a year older than me, but seemed to have the world. Of course, had I been a little more mature, I would’ve realized that things aren’t what they seem. Which isn’t to say that Lauryn didn’t have brains, talent and beauty. But there was a whole lot of other stuff in the pot, too. In light of everything we’ve learned about Lauryn in the last twenty years (and the blinding light of the critical acclaim it received upon release), I can’t say I enjoy Miseducation now as much as I did then. But some songs have retained their awesomeness, and “Doo Wop” is one of them.

Nowadays, everyone and their momma raps and sings, so “Doo Wop” sounds less avant-garde than it did in the ‘90s when even the artists who tried to rap and sing did one much better than they did the other thing. Lauryn was amazing from both angles, and she set the stage for the Phontes and the Andre 3000s and…yes, the Drakes and Kanyes of the world. “Doo Wop” also tied generations together. It’s intro and chorus (and video) referenced the ‘50s and ‘60s, but the lyrics were thoroughly modern.

Ah, the lyrics. This is where we have to contend with 2018-era Lauryn and pause for a second. Like, damn girl. That air of condescension is real. I appreciate you telling folks to respect their bodies and be responsible, but…”Doo Wop” (and most of Miseducation) has a faint air of Lauryn looking down her glasses at society in a holier-than-thou fashion, and that all comes off a little sour now that we know how little Lauryn had her own shit together. For all of this to have taken place and “Doo Wop” still has resonance? That’s a surefire sign of a banger.

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