Lauryn Hill – is rightly regarded as one of the most exciting and original talents of her generation. As singer, songwriter and rapper, she first came to prominence as a member of the hip-hop trio the Fugees, before launching a short-lived but impactful solo career. She is also regarded as one of music’s lost geniuses, avoiding the limelight — and the studio — to raise her five children with Rohan Marley, son of reggae legend Bob. Right now, with a life that has involved no-shows at concerts and a prison sentence, it doesn’t look like she’ll be adding to her five Grammy awards.
Singer-songwriter, producer and actress Lauryn Noelle Hill was born in East Orange, New Jersey, on May 26, 1975, to Valerie Hill, a teacher, and Mal Hill, a computer consultant. The family relocated first to New York, then to Newark, before putting down roots in South Orange.
A natural performer, Hill was singing at school and at Harlem’s Apollo Theater by the age of 13. Soon after, she met Prakazrel “Pras” Michel and his cousin, Wyclef Jean, and the three formed a band focusing on hip hop, soul and R&B. First called Tranzlator Crew (later becoming the Fugees), the group began performing in local clubs, with Hill singing lead vocals — she taught herself to rap around this time.
Hill also tried her hand at acting at an early age. When she was just a high school sophomore (attending Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey), Hill landed a recurring role on the television soap opera As the World Turns. Soon after, she earned a featured part in the popular film Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, starring Whoopi Goldberg.
Nas – Hailing from Queensbridge, New York, Nas made a huge impact in the early 1990s with Illmatic, widely regarded as one of the greatest rap albums of all time. While he has arguably never hit such heights again, he has nevertheless sold 25 million records, received worldwide critical acclaim, engaged in a notorious beef with Jay Z, and married — and divorced — the R&B star Kelis. His place in hip-hop’s pantheon is secure.
Born Nasir Jones, in Queens, New York, on September 14, 1973, Nas is the son of jazz musician Olu Dara. He was raised in Queensbridge Houses — the largest public-housing project in America — where he wrote stories about his life growing up there. Despite his talent for writing, Nas dropped out of school in eighth grade, and his life on the streets would fuel a new style of writing: rap lyrics. His first mentor was Willy “Ill Will” Graham, who would play him hip-hop records and DJ as Nas rapped.
In 1991, rapping as Nasty Nas, he made a stunning debut with a guest verse on “Live at the Barbecue” by Main Source. Nas’ verse was a seamless melding of his writing skills and his street knowledge. The track was produced by Large Professor, who subsequently produced many of Nas’ early demos and continued to work with him throughout his career. In the wake of “Barbecue,” Nas was asked to contribute to the soundtrack for the film Zebrahead — a sort of hip-hop Romeo and Juliet set in Detroit — and the resulting song, “Halftime,” another collaboration with Large Professor, became his debut single in 1992, and would also appear on his debut album, Illmatic, two years later.
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