Grammy flashback: Lauryn Hill properly educated the academy 23 years ago

Few albums have had the legacy that Lauryn Hill’s solo debut record, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” has had. The critically acclaimed yet also commercially dominant record established Hill as one of the leading creatives of her time and is a milestone in music-making, especially for hip-hop and soul. “Miseducation” is also one of the few albums to be certified diamond in the United States, and the first by a female hip-hop artist to do so. And of course, to add to its innumerable list of honors, it won Album of the Year at the Grammys, along with four other awards. Watch her accept the top prize above.

“Miseducation” was a big cultural moment in 1998. Its lead single, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” debuted at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 (a rare feat back in the ’90s before streaming made number-one debuts much more common) and became the first song by a female rapper to do so. The album also debuted atop the Billboard 200, breaking the record for the biggest first-week sales by a female artist at the time, moving over 420k copies in the United States. Acclaim for the album was also monumental. It topped many best-of-the-year lists and became one of the most lauded records of the ’90s. Since then it was crowned the 10th greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone. So it’s safe to say that the project went into the Grammys carrying a lot of passionate support.

Hill was widely predicted to win Album of the Year. The New York Post wrote that, while the album lineup was very strong, Hill’s 10 total nominations would culminate in a win for her. Alongside Hill were three albums by solo women and one by a band fronted by a woman, making this one of the only times a general field category was all female. Madonna’s “Ray of Light,” often considered her magnum opus, was likely the runner-up, winning four other Grammys that night including Best Pop Album. It was a huge success for Madonna, earning her best first-week sales ever and stunning reviews; it likely would’ve won without Hill’s massive success. Also nominated was Sheryl Crow for “The Globe Sessions,” which won two Grammys for Best Rock Album and Best Engineered Album, Non Classical. Moving over to the country side, there was Shania Twain’s iconic “Come on Over,” the bestselling female album of the year and currently the best selling solo female album of all time in the United States. While that record was a smash, it didn’t have as much industry support as expected, losing Best Country Album to The Chicks‘ “Wide Open Spaces” in a major upset. Still, Twain won two Grammys for her hit single “You’re Still the One.” Last but not least, the previous year’s Best New Artist nominee Garbage was up for their album “Version 2.0.” The record was a success, even if it was the only nominee in this category that failed to win any Grammys.

On Grammy night, an excited Whitney Houston presented Hill with the Album of the Year award, to the surprise of no one and the acclaim of everyone. Hill’s win represents one of the few moments where the Grammys have properly awarded hip-hop, especially considering much of its competition would’ve made sense as safe picks from previously-awarded genres in the general field. “Miseducation” was the first hip-hop record to win the Grammy for Album of the Year. While it technically wasn’t the first rap album to win (the Grammys slotted it in R&B, so the first rap album to win would be OutKast’s “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” five years later), it still opened the door for female rappers, even in male-dominated categories. Since Hill, artists like Lil Kim, Eve, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion have managed to take Grammys home.

In the end, “Miseducation” is just one of those albums that made sense as a winner. It would’ve been a travesty for an album with such acclaim, commercial success, and impact not to have won, especially with Hill’s popularity even to this day (though one could argue that later Album of the Year also-rans like Beyonce‘s “Lemonade” and Kendrick Lamar‘s “Damn” should have won for the same reasons). So for actually giving forward-thinking “Miseducation” the prize back in 1999, all I can say is … good job, Grammys.

Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify record executives and music stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where thousands of showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?

Grammy odds for Album of the Year
Who will win?

More News from GoldDerby