Nearly simultaneous with her release from prison comes the release of "Consumerism," a track she and her collaborators completed while she was behind bars.
The experimental track, released under the name "Ms. Lauryn Hill," is a long way from "Doo Wop (That Thing)," her 1998 chart-topper. It features Hill aggressively rapping various words that end in "ism" -- such as "ageism, sexism, racism, chauvinism, Capitalism" -- over sparse instrumentation that includes flute loop and a skittering drum track. It's available for purchase through iTunes and for streaming via Soundcloud.
"'Consumerism' is part of some material I was trying to finish before I had to come in," Hill explains in a note posted on her Tumblr account. "We did our best to eek [sic] out a mix via verbal and emailed direction, thanks to the crew of surrogate ears on the other side. Letters From Exile is material written from a certain space, in a certain place. I felt the need to discuss the underlying socio-political, cultural paradigm as I saw it. I haven't been able to watch the news too much recently, so I'm not hip on everything going on. But inspiration of this sort is a kind of news in and of itself, and often times contains an urgency that precedes what happens. I couldn't imagine it not being relevant. Messages like these I imagine find their audience, or their audience finds them, like water seeking its level."
The track is the second Hill has released since her incarceration. "Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)," released in August, was criticized for lyrics that seemingly blamed society's social ills on the LGBTQ community.
Prior to her incarceration, Hill signed a new deal with Sony Music, which included the launch of her own imprint, Observe Creation Music. She is expected to release a full album before the end of the year. If it materializes, it will be only her second studio solo effort and first in more than a decade, following 1998's blockbuster The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. She also released MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 in 2002.
In the early reviews of "Consumerism" posted on iTunes, fans are split on the track. "Buizel1" gives it four-out-of-five stars, writing, "At least we got new music from her. Still waiting for the 2nd album! keep doing your thing girl."
"Hannah929" offers the flipside, with a one-star review that says, "Not music to my ear. Um. I'm a huge fan. Love me some Lauryn. But what the??! This sounds more like a hot mess than music. Not what you would expect if you're a fan. However, given that she was in jail working on this, I'm not sure how it could be."
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- Lauryn Hill