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Album Review

** 1/2 LAURYN HILL "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" Ruffhouse/Columbia

August 23, 1998|Soren Baker

After fans ignored the Fugees' debut album, 1994's "Blunted on Reality," the New York hip-hop trio hit big two years later with "The Score"--thanks largely to Hill's remake of Roberta Flack's 1973 hit "Killing Me Softly With His Song." The album sold nearly 5 million copies and turned Hill and bandmates Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel into pop music darlings. Jean, widely regarded as the musical brains behind the group, last year released his critically acclaimed album "Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival . . . ," with noteworthy cameos from Hill, among others.

Now, after producing Aretha Franklin and releasing solo recordings for soundtracks, Hill delivers her own solo project, a largely self-produced collection. While Hill gained most of her notoriety as a singer, she is much more proficient as a rapper. When rapping about the lack of other rappers' creativity, she sounds authoritative and forceful. However, when singing about the need for reciprocity, the joy her child brings to her life or the anguish of a painful relationship, it becomes evident that her voice is too thin to carry such heavy subject matter. Nonetheless, with a mix of hard-core hip-hop, danceable doo-wop and sultry soul, Hill creates a satisfactory, even appealing set.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

Hear Lauryn Hill

* Excerpts from "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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