Lauryn Hill in Los Angeles in July of 2011. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
The news today that Lauryn Hill has pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges still leaves much to mystery, such as exactly how and why Hill felt pressure to recede from public view and opt not to release the bounty of material she has supposedly amassed over the last decade. The tax issue at least appears to have some closure.
Hill today admitted that she failed to file tax returns from 2005 to 2007, according to the Associated Press. The amount earned over that three-year period is more than $1.5 million, and Hill faces a maximum prison sentence of three years, one year for each count.
The AP wrote that Hill was "dressed in a dark jacket, white button-up shirt and a long reddish-orange skirt," adding that she declined to comment after the hearing in New Jersey. Her attorney Nathan Hochman, according to wire reports, noted that the artist intends to pay back the money that she owes.
While the headline that Hill pleaded guilty has been splashed over gossip sites such as TMZ, far more fascinating are Hill's own words. Earlier this month Hill, who has resumed touring in recent years, attempted to explain her side of the story on her Tumblr page.
Hill wrote a 1,200-word essay on the effects and headaches of fame, explaining to fans not only why she hasn't released a proper studio album since her multiple-Grammy winning "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" in 1998, but also the reasons for avoiding the tax work.
Wrote Hill: “For the past several years, I have remained what others would consider underground. I did this in order to build a community of people, like-minded in their desire for freedom and the right to pursue their goals and lives without being manipulated and controlled by a media protected military industrial complex with a completely different agenda. Having put the lives and needs of other people before my own for multiple years, and having made hundreds of millions of dollars for certain institutions, under complex and sometimes severe circumstances, I began to require growth and more equitable treatment, but was met with resistance."
Hill noted that she had met with federal authorities and that her "intention has always been to get this situation rectified." She detailed a personal quest to be liberated from all aspects of fame, and wrote that "there were no exotic trips, no fleet of cars, just an all out war for safety, integrity, wholeness and health, without mistreatment denial, and/or exploitation."
Her solo debut "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," won the album of the year Grammy. Since then, new studio work has trickled out or been released as singles, but a full new album of studio work has not materialized. Hill appears to be on a path to put her demons behind her. She recently performed at the Hollywood Palladium, and told fans "be patient with me. New is coming."
In the meantime, though, Hill will have to overcome this tax roadblock.