First Night: A lesson in rapping from Miss Education

Lauryn Hill Brixton Academy London
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The Independent Online
TO GET the full effect of Lauryn Hill's show last night you needed more than a passing acquaintance with musical styles that traversed many decades, not to mention cultural divides.

As Hill stopped for a wardrobe change half-way through the set her 13- strong musical entourage juxtaposed jazz with calypso, dub reggae and rock, swing and gospel as well as a riotous session at the decks where a pair of DJs paraded their scratching prowess by spinning records with their shirts over their heads. But even they couldn't outshine Ms Hill.

After the monument to cliche that was The Fugees, Lauryn Hill has had a lot of ground to cover in her quest for credibility.

The Fugees may have made millions with their debut album The Score, but their hip-hop prattling and numerous cover versions made some rap purists froth at the mouth with rage.

Hill redeemed herself with an album entitled The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill that delighted rap purists and R and B devotees and introduced newcomers to the notion that rap could exist without the words "bitch", "ho" and "jiggy". This album swept the boards of last year's Best Of... roundups and is now up for eight Grammy Awards.

Such claims were backed by last night's graceful performance.

The auditorium rippled with the sound of her honeyed voice. As she moved seamlessly between the mellifluous soul of Nothing Even Matters and the emphatic rap of Every Ghetto, Every City, the crowds were reduced to kindergarten kids waiting for their teacher to dispense the next piece of wisdom.

Hill gesticulated with every word: she clutched her head, twitched her perfectly shaped eyebrows and gently patted the air as if comforting her fans.

Behind the unsullied sweetness of her face Hill harbours traces of bile Some wan' play young Lauryn like she done/But a new thing test me, run for mi gun, she spits in Lost Ones, infusing her voice with spikes and proving that the rough does indeed come with the smooth.

Hill's many layered lyrics reveal a no-nonsense woman whose chart-friendly melodies and boisterous rhythms are underpinned by dark, deadly serious themes.

But an air of righteousness is short-lived as Hill engages in a bit of rousing call-and-response banter while her beefy rapping chum buzzes around her like a persistent gnat.