Lauryn Hill

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Posted by kaori 04/18/2009 @ 20:09

Tags : lauryn hill, rap and hip-hop, artists, music, entertainment

News headlines
Estelle to headline Stockholm Jazz Festival - The Associated Press
STOCKHOLM (AP) — Grammy-winning British singer Estelle will replace Lauryn Hill as the headline act at this year's Stockholm Jazz Festival. Earlier this month, the festival said Hill had canceled all European tour dates because of health reasons....
Maxwell set to release first album in seven years - Reuters
Lauryn Hill did it. "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" -- six-times platinum -- came out 11 years ago. A vanishing act has become practically de rigueur for R&B musicians of a certain caliber (although Sade and D'Angelo are supposed to release albums...
Lauryn Hill Cancels European Tour, Cites “Health Reasons” - Rolling Stone
Reclusive R&B-hip-hop star Lauryn Hill has put a halt to her planned comeback tour, canceling her entire European lineup of dates, the AP reports. Hill was scheduled to headline this year's Stockholm Jazz Festival on July 15th, but her agent informed...
Lauryn Hill pulls out of European tour - LiveDaily.com
By Suzanne Kayian / LiveDaily Contributor Lauryn Hill [ tickets ] has canceled all of the dates on her European summer tour, according to a story posted by OK! Magazine. Hill's agent reportedly told organizers of the Stockholm Jazz Festival,...
Lauryn Hill Backs Out Of European Tour - ConnieTalk
Lauryn Hill is so talented...but off-the-charts talent often comes with turmoil. The R&B singer had a tour scheduled for Europe this summer, including the Stockholm Jazz Festival, but has cancelled the tour dates, citing health reasons....
Lauryn Hill Cancels European Tour - Albumista
Hill's agent gave no further details while contacting festival organizers earlier this week. Those shows would have come nearly 10 years after the debut of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. That album went on to see five Grammys after its release in...
Lauryn Hill, Allison Iraheta in News Notes - groovevolt.com
Lauryn Hill has canceled all of her summer tour dates in Europe due to unspecified health issues. The artist's tour was scheduled to hit Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Austria…...
Plunk, Plunk, Plunk: Grizzly Bear Sounds Like MIA Sounds Like ... - Paste Magazine
"Some Lauryn Hill song." And yeah, it's kinda there too—at least to our ears. But what do you think? Do you hear what we hear? Even if you don't in this instance, how do you feel about songs that so closely recall other tunes?...
The Natural Mystic Coffee - Jamaica Observer
Musician Rohan Marley, Bob Marley's son and longtime partner of R&B soulster Lauryn Hill has launched a line of coffee blends in tribute to his late father. "My father came from farmland of Nine Miles," Rohan recalls, "There, he learned a deep respect...

Lauryn Hill

Hill performing in Prague, Summer 2007

Lauryn Noel Hill (born May 25, 1975 in South Orange, New Jersey) is a Grammy Award-winning American singer, rapper, musician, songwriter, producer, and film actress. Early in her career, she established her reputation in the hip-hop world as the lone female member of The Fugees. In 1998 she launched her solo career with the release of the commercially successful and critically acclaimed album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The recording earned Hill five Grammy Awards.

Following the success of her debut album, Hill largely dropped out of public view, in part due to her displeasure with fame and the music industry. After a four-year hiatus, she released MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, a live recording of "deeply personal songs", played with an acoustic guitar. Hill also participated in a short-lived Fugees reunion during the mid-2000s. Hill is the mother of five children with Rohan Marley, the fourth son of reggae legend Bob Marley.

Lauryn Hill was born in South Orange, New Jersey, the second of two children born to high school English teacher Valerie Hill and computer programmer Mal Hill. As a child, Hill incessantly listened to her parents' Motown 1960s soul records. Music was a central part of the Hill home. Mal Hill sang at weddings, Valerie played the piano, and Lauryn's older brother Melaney played the saxophone, guitar, drums, harmonica, violin, and piano. In 1988 13-year old Hill appeared as an Amateur Night contestant on It's Showtime at the Apollo. Hill sang her own version of Smokey Robinson's song "Who's Lovin' You?".

Hill was childhood friends with actor Zach Braff and they both graduated from Columbia High School (New Jersey) in 1993, where Hill was an active student, cheerleader, and performer. Braff has spoken of Hill attending his bar Mitzvah in 1988.

Hill and Wyclef Jean dated through the majority of the Fugees time together, a relationship that friends have called "complicated." In the summer of 1996, she met Rohan Marley, son of the late reggae music icon Bob Marley, and openly had a relationship with him. Wyclef knew about this relationship. Lauryn soon became pregnant by Marley, who himself was already married. She kept the information about who the baby's father was a secret to almost everyone; Jean assumed the baby was his when he first visited her in the hospital.

Though she refers to Marley as her husband, the two appear to have never been legally married. Marley never divorced his first wife Geraldine Khawly, whom he married in 1993 while a sophomore at University of Miami, Florida. With Khawly he has two children: daughter Eden Marley and son Nicolas Marley . A friend of the couple told Rolling Stone that they ignore the issue. Marley's personal MySpace account lists his relationship status as "single", but says he and Hill are "spiritually together." The two do not currently live together.

The couple have five children: son Zion David Hill-Marley, daughter Selah Louise Marley, son Joshua Marley, and son John Marley. The couple's fifth child is a baby girl who was born in early 2008; Marley told People magazine that although the baby is 7 months old, she is still without a name. Since 1998, Hill has lived in both the Caribbean and an upscale hotel in Miami. In August 2008, it was reported that Hill is now living with her mother and children in her hometown of South Orange, New Jersey.

Hill began her acting career at a young age. Hill appeared on the soap opera, As The World Turns as Kira Johnson. In 1993, she starred in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit as Rita Louise Watson. In the film, she performed the songs "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" (a duet with Tanya Blount) and "Joyful, Joyful". It was in this role that she first came to national prominence, with Roger Ebert calling her "the girl with the big joyful voice". Her other acting work includes the play Club XII with MC Lyte, and the motion pictures King of the Hill, Hav Plenty, and Restaurant. After her rise to musical stardom, she reportedly turned down roles in Charlie's Angels, The Bourne Identity, The Mexican, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

She appeared on the soundtrack to Conspiracy Theory in 1996 with "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", and on Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood in 2002 with the track "Selah".

The Refugee Camp ("Fugees") formed after Prakazrel "Pras" Michel approached Hill in high school about joining a music group he was creating. Soon after, she met Pras' cousin and fellow Haïtian immigrant, Wyclef Jean. At some point, Hill was given the nickname "L Boogie," as she began to convert her poetic writing into rap verses. Hill's singing gained worldwide acclaim with the Fugees' remake of "Killing Me Softly with His Song", accompanied by a sample from Rotary Connection's "Memory Band" (also sampled in A Tribe Called Quest's "Bonita Applebum").

The Fugees' first album Blunted on Reality peaked at #49 on the U.S. Hot 100. The album sold over 2 million copies worldwide. Blunted on Reality was followed by The Score, a multi-platinum, Grammy-winning album that established two of the three Fugees as international rap stars. Singles from The Score include "Ready or Not", "Fu-Gee-La", "No Woman, No Cry", and "Killing Me Softly" (written by Lori Lieberman and made famous by Roberta Flack).

In 1997, Hill began production on an album that would eventually become The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The title was partially inspired by The Education of Sonny Carson, a film and autobiographical novel about a troubled African American youth. The album featured contributions from D'Angelo, Carlos Santana, Mary J. Blige and a then-unknown John Legend. Songs for the album were largely written in an attic studio in South Orange, New Jersey and recorded at Chung King Studios in Jamaica. Wyclef Jean initially didn't support Hill recording a solo album, but eventually offered his production help; Hill turned him down.

Several songs on the album concerned her frustrations with The Fugees; "I Used to Love Him" dealt with the break-down of the relationship between Hill and Wyclef Jean. "To Zion" spoke about her decision to have her first baby, even though many at the time encouraged her to abort the pregnancy as to not interfere with her blossoming career.

The Miseducation contained several interludes of a teacher speaking to what is implied to be a classroom of children; in fact, the "teacher" was played by Ras Baraka (a poet, educator and politician) speaking to a group of kids in the living room of Hill's New Jersey home. The singer requested that Baraka speak to the children about the concept of love, and he improvised the lecture.

Though The Miseducation was largely a collaborative work between Hill and a group of musicians known as New Ark (Vada Nobles, Rasheem Pugh, Tejumold and Johari Newton), there was "label pressure to do the Prince thing," wherein all tracks would be credited as "written and produced by" the artist with little outside help. While recording the album, when Hill was asked about providing contracts or documentation to the musicians, she replied, "We all love each other. This ain't about documents. This is blessed." Hill, her management, and her record label were sued in 1998 by New Ark, claiming that they either co-wrote or co-produced 13 of 14 tracks on the album. The suit was settled out of court in February 2001 for a reported $5 million.

1998 saw the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which was both critically and commercially successful. It sold over 423,000 copies in its first week and topped the Billboard 200 albums chart for four weeks and the Billboard R&B Album chart for six weeks; it would go on to sell more than 18 million copies over the next decade. The first single off the album was "Lost Ones" (US #27), released in Spring 1998. The second was "Doo Wop (That Thing)", which reached #1 in the billboard charts. Other singles released in support of the album were "Ex-Factor" (US #21), "Everything Is Everything" (US #35), and "To Zion".

At the 1999 Grammy Awards, Hill was nominated ten times , becoming the first female ever to be nominated ten times in one year: Hill won five Grammys including Album of the Year (beating Madonna's Ray of Light), Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist. Lauryn Hill set a new record in the industry, as she became the first woman to win five Grammys in one night. Between 1998 and 1999, Hill earned $25 million from record sales and touring.

Hill became a national media icon, as magazines ranging from Time to Esquire to Teen People vied to put her on the cover. By the end of the year, as the album topped virtually every major music critic's best-of list, she was being credited for helping fully assimilate hip-hop into mainstream music.

In the late 1990s, Hill was noted by some as a humanitarian. In 1996 she received an Essence Award for work which has included the 1996 founding of the Refugee Project, an outreach organization that supports a two-week overnight camp for at-risk youth, and for supporting well-building projects in Kenya and Uganda, as well as for staging a rap concert in Harlem to promote voter registration. In 1999 Hill received three awards at the 30th Annual NAACP Image Awards. In 1999 Ebony named her one of "100+ Most Influential Black Americans". She was named with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and others among the "10 For Tomorrow," in the EBONY 2000: Special Millennium Issue.

After the release of her debut album, she explored other methods of expressing herself, including creating an extensive amount of music, poetry, and clothing designs. She started writing a screenplay about the life of Bob Marley, in which she planned to act as his wife Rita. She also began producing a romantic comedy about soul food with a working title of Sauce, and accepted a starring role in the film adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel Beloved; she later dropped out of both projects due to pregnancy.

Hill became dissatisfied with the music industry; she felt she was being unfairly controlled by her record label, and disliked being unable "to go to the grocery store without makeup." She fired her management team and began attending Bible study classes five days a week; she also stopped doing interviews, watching television and listening to music. She started associating with a "spiritual adviser" named Brother Anthony. Some familiar with Hill believe Anthony was closer to a cult leader than a spiritual advisor, and think his guidance probably inspired much of Hill's newfound erratic behavior and fanaticism.

On July 21, 2001, Lauryn unveiled her new material to a small crowd, for a taping of an MTV Unplugged special. An album of concert, titled MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, exhibited a new Hill, as she focused on the lyrics and the message she was spreading rather than the musical arrangements. "Fantasy is what people want, but reality is what they need", she said during the concert. "I’ve just retired from the fantasy part." Most of the songs featured only an acoustic guitar and her voice, somewhat raspy from rehearsal on the day before the recording. Hill used the set as an opportunity to give information on why she had been absent from the public for a period of time and what she had found while away.

Unlike the near-unanimous praise of The Miseducation, 2.0 sharply divided critics. AllMusic gave the album 4 out of 5 stars, saying that the recording "is the unfinished, unflinching presentation of ideas and of a person. It may not be a proper follow-up to her first album, but it is fascinating." Rolling Stone called the album "a public breakdown". Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani wrote, "Hill's guitarwork is multi-textured and fine-tuned but her vocals lack confidence and seem to toe the edge of her range throughout the album. And though the stripped-down nature of the show is fitting, many of the songs sound as if they are still in their infancy." Despite the mixed reviews, 2.0 debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 and went platinum four weeks after its release.

Despite Hill's departure from the media and celebrity, she continued to have some success in the music world. Her song "Mystery of Iniquity" was nominated for a Grammy without promotion or radio airplay and used as an interpolation by hip-hop mega-producer Kanye West for his single "All Falls Down" (eventually recorded by Syleena Johnson).

Hill called on the church leaders to "repent" and encouraged the crowd to "not seek blessings from man but from God." She then performed the songs "Damnable Heresies" and "Social Drugs".

High-ranking church officials in attendance included Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Monsignor Rino Fisichella and Edmund Cardinal Szoka. Pope John Paul II was not present. The segment was cut from the television broadcast. Both the Vatican and Columbia Records refused to issue official statements regarding Hill's actions. Monsignor Fisichella told reporters that Hill had acted "in poor taste and very bad mannered. It showed a complete lack of respect for her invitation and for the place where she had been invited to perform". The Catholic League called Hill "pathologically miserable" and claimed her career is "in decline".

Hill responded to the controversy on December 16: "What I said was the truth. Is telling the truth bad manners? What I asked was the church to repent for what has happened." The following day, several reporters suggested that Hill's comments at the Vatican may have been influenced by her "advisor" Brother Anthony.

The Fugees performed on September 18, 2004 at Dave Chappelle's Block Party in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. They headlined a bill that included a star-studded cast of hip hop celebrities. The concert featured Hill's nearly a cappella rendition of "Killing Me Softly". The event was recorded by director Michel Gondry and was released on March 3, 2006 to mostly positive reviews.

The Fugees also appeared at BET's 2005 Music Awards on June 28, 2005, where they opened the show with a 12-minute set.

The Fugees embarked on a European tour from November 30, 2005 through December 20, 2005. The group played in Austria, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, England, Ireland and Switzerland.

On February 6, 2006, the Fugees did a special "Reunion Concert" in Hollywood, that was offered as a live webcast on the Verizon Wireless website. The Fugees were featured in numerous Verizon Wireless VCast advertisements in magazines and on TV around that same time. A new song titled "Foxy" was made available on VCast and a third new song was leaked, unofficially titled "Wannabe", which uses the same hook as the Michael Jackson song "I Wanna Be Where You Are".

Old tensions between Hill and the other members of the group soon resurfaced, and the reunion fizzled before an album could be recorded. Wyclef Jean and Pras both blamed Hill's erratic behavior as the cause of the split. Hill reportedly demanded to be addressed by everyone, including her bandmates, as "Ms. Hill"; she also considered changing her moniker to "Empress". Her chronic tardiness — sometimes stalling up to 45 minutes after the two had taken the stage to join them — has been cited as another contributing factor to the break up.

Pras told the press in August 2007, "Before I work with Lauryn Hill again, you will have a better chance of seeing Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush in Starbucks having a latte, discussing foreign policies… At this point I really think it will take an act of God to change her, because she is that far out there." On March 4, 2008, Jean admitted on the Howard Stern Show that he believed that Hill suffered from bipolar disorder and stated that "she needs meds".

Hill has been slowly working on a new album and in November 2004 shot a music video. The album had a slated street date of November 2005, and neither it nor the music video have been released. It was also reported that as of 2003, Columbia Records had spent more than $2.5 million funding Hill's new album, mostly spent on installing a recording studio in the singer's Miami apartment and flying different musicians around the country. When Hill was hiring musicians to work on her new album, one inquired how much they would be paid. She replied, "'Do it for God,' meaning 'do it for free'".

In 2004, Hill began selling a pay-per-view music video of the song "Social Drugs" through her website. Those who purchase the $15 video would only be able to view it three times before it expired. In addition to the video, Hill began selling autographed posters and Polaroids through her website, with some items listed at upwards of $500.

In 2005, she told USA Today, "If I make music now, it will only be to provide information to my own children. If other people benefit from it, then so be it." When asked how she now felt about the songs on 2.0, she stated "a lot of the songs were transitional. The music was about how I was feeling at the time, even though I was documenting my distress as well as my bursts of joy." Also in 2005, Kanye West worked on two songs for Hill's new album.

She has toured several times in recent years, though most of her concerts have received mixed reviews. Hill is often late to concerts (sometimes by over two hours) and reconfigures her well-known hits in to "unrecognizable scat chants" while "sporting frizzy orange hair and exaggerated makeup". On some occasions, fans have booed her and left early; some fans have also demanded their money back after concerts.

On October 6, 2005, Lauryn Hill emceed and performed two songs at the Take Back TV concert launching Al Gore's CurrentTV.

In June 2007, Sony records said though Hill has "consistently recorded over the past decade" and has what amounts to "a library of unreleased material in the vault", she had recently re-entered the studio "with the goal of making a new LP." Later that same year, Think Differently music quietly released a 22 track compilation titled Ms. Hill which featured cuts from The Miseducation, various soundtracks contributions and other "unreleased" songs. It features guest appearances from D'Angelo, Rah Digga and John Forte. It is unclear if the album is sanctioned by the artist — many of the songs are obviously in unfinished format and clock in at under one minute — but it is currently listed on AllMusic and Amazon.

Reports in mid-2008 claimed that Columbia Records currently believe Lauryn Hill to be "on hiatus." Rohan Marley disputed these claims, telling an interviewer that Hill has enough material for several albums: "She writes music in the bathroom, on toilet paper, on the wall. She writes it in the mirror if the mirror smokes up. She writes constantly. This woman does not sleep" .

Lauryn Hill has been cited as an influence by many, especially those in the neo-soul movement of the 2000s. Musicians who have acknowledged Hill's importance include Prince, John Legend, Alicia Keys, D'Angelo, Mary J. Blige, and Jazmine Sullivan. In 2005, Talib Kweli released a song about the singer, titled "Ms. Hill", on Right About Now.

Michelle Obama, wife of (US) President Barack Obama, told the BBC that she frequently listens to Hill's music on her iPod. 2008 Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain's daughter Meghan has claimed that her father listens to Hill: "I borrowed his car once in D.C., and I was like, looking through CDs, and I was like, 'Oh, Lauryn Hill.'" Actors Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington Naya Streeks are also reportedly fans of the singer. Some churches have begun incorporating Hill's "Nothing Even Matters" into services.

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The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill cover

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the debut solo album studio by Lauryn Hill. Released August 25, 1998, the album swept the Grammy Awards in 1999, being nominated for 10 and winning five. As of 2009, the album has sold over 19 million copies worldwide and over 10 million copies in the US alone, with the RIAA giving it Diamond status .

In 1997, Hill began production on an album that would eventually become The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The title was partially inspired by The Education of Sonny Carson, a film and autobiographical novel about a troubled African American youth. The album includes collaborations with soul singer D'Angelo on "Nothing Even Matters", guitarist Carlos Santana on "To Zion", singer Mary J. Blige on "I Used to Love Him"; as well as then little-known John Legend playing the piano on "Everything is Everything". Songs for the album were largely written in an attic studio in South Orange, New Jersey and recorded at Chung King Studios in Jamaica. Wyclef Jean, Hill's bandmate with The Fugees, initially didn't support Hill recording a solo album, but eventually offered his production help; Hill declined his assistance.

Several songs on the album concerned her frustrations with The Fugees; "I Used to Love Him" dealt with the break-down of the relationship between Hill and Wyclef Jean. "To Zion" spoke about her decision to have her first baby, even though many at the time encouraged her to abort the pregnancy as to not interfere with her blossoming career.

The Miseducation contained several interludes of a teacher speaking to what is implied to be a classroom of children; in fact, the "teacher" was played by Ras Baraka (a poet, educator and politician) speaking to a group of kids in the living room of Hill's New Jersey home. The singer requested that Baraka speak to the children about the concept of love, and he improvised the lecture.

1998 saw the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which was both critically and commercially successful. The landmark concept album set new records for black women, female hip-hop artists, and women in general. It sold over 423,000 copies in its first week and topped the Billboard 200 albums chart for four weeks and the Billboard R&B Album chart for six weeks; it would go on to sell more than 18 million copies over the next decade. The first single off the album was "Lost Ones" (US #27), released in Spring 1998. The second was "Doo Wop (That Thing)", which reached #1 in the billboard charts. Other singles released in support of the album were "Ex-Factor" (US #21), "Everything Is Everything" (US #35), and "To Zion".

At the 1999 Grammy Awards, Hill was nominated ten times , becoming the first female ever to be nominated ten times in one year: Hill won five Grammys including Album of the Year, Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist. Lauryn Hill set a new record in the industry, as she became the first woman to win five Grammys in one night. Between 1998 and 1999, Hill earned $25 million from record sales and touring.

Hill became a national media icon, as magazines ranging from Time to Esquire to Teen People vied to put her on the cover. By the end of the year, as the album topped virtually every major music critic's best-of list, she was being credited for helping fully assimilate hip-hop into mainstream music.

In the late 1990s, Hill was noted by some as a humanitarian. In 1996 she received an Essence Award for work which has included the 1996 founding of the Refugee Project, an outreach organization that supports a two-week overnight camp for at-risk youth, and for supporting well-building projects in Kenya and Uganda, as well as for staging a rap concert in Harlem to promote voter registration. In 1999 Hill received three awards at the 30th Annual NAACP Image Awards. In 1999 Ebony named her one of "100+ Most Influential Black Americans". She was named with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and others among the "10 For Tomorrow," in the EBONY 2000: Special Millennium Issue.

In 2003, VH1 named it the 37th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 312 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Chris Rock ranked it 23rd in his 2005 list of the Top 25 Hip-Hop Albums of all time. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named " The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" second on the greatest albums in the past 25 years.

In 1998, New Ark filed a fifty-page lawsuit against Hill, her management, and her record label, stating that Hill "used their songs and production skills but failed to properly credit them for the work." The musicians claimed that they either wrote or produced 13 of 14 tracks on Miseducation , despite the liner notes of the album claiming that it was "produced, written, arranged and performed by Lauryn Hill." New Ark requested partial writing credits and monetary reimbursement. The suit was settled out of court in February 2001 for a reported $5 million.

New Ark's lawyer, Peter C. Harvey, scoffed at Hill's image as a prolific songwriter. “She is not a musician, she is not a producer...I dare say if you put Lauryn Hill in a studio alone, she couldn’t do it again." . In a 2005 Interview, Lauryn responded saying " I am a Songwriter, Producer and a Musician and that I gave people too much credit that they didn't truly deserve. I can do it again, because I am a Artist thats speaks from my heart and from my mind. If people benefit off my new music to come then so be it, I will only make music to give information to my own children".

As of 2009, Hill has released only one album after Miseducation - 2001's MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 - which sold a fraction of Miseducation's numbers.

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List of awards and nominations received by Lauryn Hill

This page lists the awards won by singer Lauryn Hill.

As of 2008, Lauryn Hill has won over 30 awards, including eight Grammy Awards and three World best-selling Music Awards. In 1998 she was the first female solo artist awarded five Grammys in one year. Following her lead, Alicia Keys (2002), Norah Jones (2003), Beyoncé Knowles (2004), and Amy Winehouse (2008) also won five in one year.

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Alicia Keys

Keys performing in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2002

Alicia Augello Cook (born January 25, 1981), better known by her stage name Alicia Keys, is an American recording artist, musician and actress. She was raised in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan in New York by her single mother, where Keys made a television appearance on The Cosby Show at the age of four. She attended Professional Performing Arts School and graduated at 16. She later attended Columbia University before dropping out to pursue her music career. Keys released her debut album with J Records, having had previous record deals first with Columbia and then Arista Records.

Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor, was a commercial success, selling over 11 million copies worldwide. She became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001. The album earned Keys five Grammy Awards in 2002, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for "Fallin'". Her second studio album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, was released in 2003 and was also another success worldwide, selling eight million copies. The album garnered an additional four Grammy Awards in 2005. Later that year, she released her first live album, Unplugged, which debuted at number one in the United States. She became the first female to have an MTV Unplugged album to debut at number one and the highest since Nirvana in 1994.

Keys made guest appearances in several television series in the following years. She made her film debut in Smokin' Aces and went on to appear in The Nanny Diaries in 2007. Her third studio album, As I Am, was released in the same year and sold nearly six million copies worldwide, earning Keys an additional three Grammy Awards. The following year, she appeared in The Secret Life of Bees, which earned her a nomination at the NAACP Image Awards. Throughout her career, Keys has won numerous awards and has sold over 14 million albums in the United States and 30 million worldwide, establishing herself as one of the best-selling artists of her time.

Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook on January 25, 1981, in a Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan, in New York City, New York. She is the daughter and only child of Irish-Italian mother Teresa Augello, a paralegal and part-time actress, and Jamaican father Craig Cook, a flight attendant. She felt comfortable with her biracial heritage because she felt she was able to "relate to different cultures". Her parents separated when she was two and she was subsequently raised by her mother during her formative years in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. In 1985, Keys made an appearance on The Cosby Show at the age of four, where she and a group of girls played the parts of Rudy Huxtable's sleepover guests in the episode "Slumber Party". Throughout her childhood, Keys was sent to music and dance classes by her mother. She began playing the piano when she was seven and learned classical music by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin. She enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of 12, where she majored in choir and began writing songs at the age of 14. She graduated in three years as valedictorian at the age of 16 and was accepted to Columbia University, but dropped out after four weeks to pursue her musical career.

Keys signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def label. She co-wrote and recorded a song entitled "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)", which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 blockbuster, Men in Black. The song was Keys' first professional recording; however, it was never released as a single and her record contract with Columbia Records ended after a dispute with the label. Keys called Clive Davis, who sensed a "special, unique" artist from her performance and signed her to Arista Records, which later disbanded. Keys almost chose Wilde as her stage name until her manager suggested the name Keys after a dream he had. Keys felt that name represented her both as a performer and person. Following Davis to his newly formed J Records label, she recorded the songs "Rock wit U" and "Rear View Mirror", which were featured on the soundtracks to the films Shaft (2000) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), respectively.

Keys released her first studio album, Songs in A Minor, in June 2001. It sold 235,000 copies in its first week and sold six million copies in the United States, where it was certified six times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It went on to sell over 11 million copies worldwide, establishing Keys' popularity both inside and outside the United States, where she became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001. The album's lead single, "Fallin'", spent six weeks at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The album's second single, "A Woman's Worth", peaked at number three on the same chart. The following year, the album was reissued as Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor, which included eight remixes and seven unplugged versions of the songs from the original.

Songs in A Minor led Keys to win five awards at the 2002 Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song for "Fallin'", Best New Artist, and Best R&B Album; "Fallin'" was also nominated for Record of the Year. Keys became the second female solo artist to win five Grammy Awards in a single night, following Lauryn Hill at the 41st Grammy Awards. That same year, she collaborated with Christina Aguilera for the latter's upcoming album Stripped on a song entitled "Impossible", which Keys wrote, co-produced, and provided with background vocals. During the early 2000s, Keys also made small cameos in television series Charmed and American Dreams.

Keys followed up her debut with The Diary of Alicia Keys, which was released in December 2003. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling over 618,000 copies its first week of release, becoming the largest first week sales for a female artist in 2003. It sold 4.4 million copies in the United States and was certified four times Platinum by the RIAA. It sold eight million copies worldwide, becoming the sixth biggest-selling album by a female artist and the second biggest-selling album by a female R&B artist. The singles "You Don't Know My Name" and "If I Ain't Got You" both reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the third single, "Diary", entered the top ten. The fourth single, "Karma", was less successful on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number twenty. "If I Ain't Got You" became the first single by a female artist to remain on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for over a year.

Keys won Best R&B Video for "If I Ain't Got You" at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards; she performed the song and "Higher Ground" with Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder. Later that year, Keys released her novel Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics, a collection of unreleased poems from her journals and lyrics. The title derived from one of her poems, "Love and Chains" from the line: "I don't mind drinking my tears for water." She said the title is the foundation of her writing because "everything I have ever written has stemmed from my tears of joy, of pain, of sorrow, of depression, even of question". The book sold over $500,000 and Keys made The New York Times bestseller list in 2005. The following year, she won a second consecutive award for Best R&B Video at the MTV Video Music Awards for the video "Karma". Keys performed "If I Ain't Got You" and then joined Jamie Foxx and Quincy Jones in a rendition of "Georgia on My Mind", the Hoagy Carmichael song made famous by Ray Charles in 1960 at the 2005 Grammy Awards. That evening, she won four Grammy Awards: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "If I Ain't Got You", Best R&B Song for "You Don't Know My Name", Best R&B Album for The Diary of Alicia Keys, and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals" for "My Boo" with Usher.

Keys performed and taped her installment of the MTV Unplugged series in July 2005 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During this session, Keys added new arrangements to her original songs and performed a few choice covers. The session was released on CD and DVD in October 2005. Simply titled Unplugged, the album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart with 196,000 units sold in its first week of release. The album sold one million copies in the United States, where it was certified Platinum by the RIAA, and two million copies worldwide. The debut of Keys' Unplugged was the highest for an MTV Unplugged album since Nirvana's 1994 MTV Unplugged in New York and the first Unplugged by a female artist to debut at number one. The album's first single, "Unbreakable", peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number four on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. It remained at number one on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay for 11 weeks.

Keys opened a recording studio in Long Island, New York, called The Oven Studios, which she co-owns with her production and songwriting partner Kerry "Krucial" Brothers. The studio was designed by renowned studio architect John Storyk of WSDG, designer of Jimi Hendrix' Electric Lady Studios. Keys and Brothers are the co-founders of KrucialKeys Enterprises, a production and songwriting team who assisted Keys in creating her albums as well as create music for other artists.

Keys made her film debut in early 2007 in the crime film Smokin' Aces, co-starring as an assassin named Georgia Sykes opposite Ben Affleck and Andy García. Keys received much praise from her co-stars in the film; Reynolds said that Keys was "so natural" and that she would "blow everybody away". In the same year, Keys earned further praise for her second film, The Nanny Diaries, based on the 2002 novel of the same name, where she co-starred alongside Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans. She also guest starred as herself in the "One Man Is an Island" episode of the drama series Cane.

Keys released her third studio album, As I Am, in November 2007; it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 742,000 copies in its first week. It gained Keys her largest first week sales of her career and became her fourth consecutive number one album, tying her with Britney Spears for the most consecutive number-one debuts on the Billboard 200 by a female artist. The week became the second largest sales week of 2007 and the largest sales week for a female solo artist since singer Norah Jones' album Feels like Home in 2004. The album has sold nearly four million copies in the United States and has been certified three times Platinum by the RIAA. It has sold nearly six million copies worldwide. Keys received five nominations for As I Am at the 2008 American Music Award and ultimately won two. The album's lead single, "No One", peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, becoming Keys' third and fifth number-one single on each chart, respectively.. The album's second single, "Like You'll Never See Me Again", was released in late 2007 and peaked at number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The album's third single, "Teenage Love Affair", peaked at number three on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. She released the fourth single, "Superwoman", which peaked at number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number twelve on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

In a 2008 interview with Blender magazine, Keys allegedly said "'Gangsta rap' was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other, 'gangsta rap' didn't exist" and went on to say that it was created by "the government." The magazine also claimed she said that Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. were "essentially assassinated, their beefs stoked by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing." Keys later wrote a statement clarifying the issues and saying her words were misinterpreted. Later that year, Keys was criticized by anti-smoking campaigners after billboard posters for her forthcoming concerts in Indonesia featured a logo for the A Mild cigarette brand sponsored by tobacco firm Philip Morris. She apologized after discovering that the concert was sponsored by the firm and asked for "corrective actions." In response, the company withdrew its sponsorship.

Keys and manager Jeff Robinson signed a film production deal to develop live-action and animated projects with Disney. Their first film will be a remake of the 1958 comedy Bell, Book and Candle and will star Keys as a witch who casts a love spell to lure a rival's fiancé. Keys and Robinson also formed a television production company called Big Pita. Their first project will be a UPN television series inspired by Keys' experiences as a biracial child growing up in New York. Keys will be an executive producer of the series and has received a script commitment from the network. Keys and Robinson will develop live-action and animated projects from their company, Big Pita and Little Pita, with Keys as producer, thespian, banner spearheading soundtrack and music supervision.

Keys began playing classical music on the piano at the age of seven. She majored in choir at the age of 12 and began writing songs at the age of 14. Being an accomplished pianist, she incorporates piano on majority of her songs and often writes about love, heartbreak and female empowerment. She was inspired by several musicians, including Prince, Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand, Marvin Gaye and Quincy Jones. Keys' style is rooted in gospel and vintage soul music, supplemented by bass and programmed drumbeats. She heavily incorporates classical piano with R&B, soul and jazz into her music, but began experimenting with genres, including pop and rock, in her third studio album, As I Am. Patrick Huguenin of the New York Daily News stated that her incorporation of classical piano riffs contributed to her breakout success. Jet magazine states she "thrives" by touching her fans with "piano mastery, words and melodious voice". The Independent described her style as consisting of "crawling blues coupled with a hip-hop backbeat", noting that her lyrics "rarely stray from matters of the heart".

Keys has a vocal range of a contralto, spanning three octaves. Critics have called her voice strong, raw and impassioned; others feel that her voice is emotionally manufactured at times and that she pushes her voice out of its natural range. Keys' songwriting is often criticized for lack of depth, calling her writing abilities limited. Her lyrics have been called generic, clichéd and that her songs are simple and revolve around generalities. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune feels that she " around for multi-format hits rather than trying to project any sort of artistic vision". Gregory Stephen Tate of The Village Voice, on the other hand, compared Keys' writing and production to 1970s music while Jon Pareles of Blender stated that the musical composition of her songs makes up for her lyrical weakness.

Joanna Hunkin of The New Zealand Herald reviewed one of Keys' performances, where Kylie Minogue also attended. She described Minogue's reaction to Keys' performance, saying "it was obvious she was just as much of a fan as the 10,000 other people at Vector Arena". She went on to say that Minogue was "the original pop princess bowing down to the modern-day queen of soul". Hunkin characterized Keys' opening performance as a "headbanging, hip-gyrating performance" and her energy as "high-octane energy most bands save for their closing finale". At the end of her two-hour performance, fans "screamed, stomped and begged for a second encore". Hillary Crosley and Mariel Concepcion of Billboard magazine noted that her shows are "extremely coordinated" with the audience's attention span "consistently maintained". The show ended with a standing ovation and Keys "proved that a dynamic performance mixed with superior musicianship always wins".

Keys is the co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit organization that provides medicine to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa. Keys and U2 lead singer Bono recorded a cover version of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush's "Don't Give Up", in recognition of World AIDS Day 2005. Keys and Bono's version of the song was retitled "Don't Give Up (Africa)" to reflect the nature of the charity it was benefiting. She visited African countries such as Uganda, Kenya and South Africa to promote care for children affected by AIDS. Her work in Africa was documented in the documentary Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland and was available in April 2008.

Keys has also donated to Frum tha Ground Up, a non-profit organization that aids children and teenagers with scholarships. She performed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as part of the worldwide Live 8 concerts to raise awareness of the poverty in Africa and to pressure the G8 leaders to take action. In 2005, Keys performed on ReAct Now: Music & Relief and Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, two benefit programs that raised money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. In July 2007, Keys and Keith Urban performed The Rolling Stones' 1969 song "Gimme Shelter" at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey at the American leg of the Live Earth concerts.

Keys performed Donny Hathaway's 1973 song "Someday We'll All Be Free" at the America: A Tribute to Heroes televised benefit concert following the September 11 attacks. She participated in the Nobel Peace Prize Concert which took place at the Oslo Spektrum in Oslo, Norway, on December 11, 2007, along with other various artists. She recorded a theme song for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. She joined Joss Stone and Jay-Z on the effort, which served as a theme song for Obama's campaign.

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Contemporary R&B

Contemporary R&B (also known as R&B) is a music genre of western popular music. Although the acronym “R&B” originates from its association with traditional rhythm and blues music, the term R&B is today most often used to define a style of African American music originating after the demise of disco in the 1980s. This newer style combines elements of soul, funk, dance, and, from 1986 on with the advent of New Jack Swing branded R&B, hip hop.

The abbreviation R&B is almost always used instead of the full rhythm and blues term, although some sources refer to the style as urban contemporary (the name of the radio format that plays hip hop and contemporary R&B).

Contemporary R&B has a slick, electronic record production style, drum machine-backed rhythms, the occasional guitar riff to give the song a rock feel, the occasional saxophone solo to give a jazz feel (mostly common in R&B songs prior to the year 1993), and a smooth, lush style of vocal arrangement. Uses of hip hop-inspired beats are typical, although the roughness and grit inherent in hip hop is usually reduced and smoothed out. R&B vocalists are often known for their use of melisma, which was popularized by Mariah Carey.

With the transition from soul and disco to R&B in the early to mid 1980s, new stars such as Prince and Michael Jackson rose in pop. Jackson's Thriller re-popularized black music with pop audiences after a post-disco backlash among United States mainstream audiences.

Female R&B singers such as Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson became very popular during the second half of the 1980s, and Tina Turner came back with a series of hits with crossover appeal. Richard J. Ripani observed in his book, The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950-1999 (2006), that Jackson's third studio album Control (1986) and fourth studio album Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 contributed to the development of contemporary R&B, as Control "was one of the first to create an identifiable bridge between rap and mainstream R&B" and Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) " use of elements from across the R&B spectrum." Jackson and her producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis "crafted a new sound that fuses the rhythmic elements of funk and disco, along with heavy doses of synthesizers, percussion, sound effects, and a rap music sensibility." Also popular was New Edition, a group of teenagers who served as the prototype for later boy bands.

In 1986, Teddy Riley began producing R&B recordings that included influences from the increasingly popular genre of hip hop. This combination of R&B style and hip hop rhythms was termed new jack swing, and was applied to artists such as Keith Sweat, Guy, Jodeci, Bell Biv DeVoe, and the popular late 1980s/early 1990s work of Michael Jackson. Another popular, but short-lived group (with more pronounced R&B roots) was Levert. In the late 1980s, George Michael become one of Britain's best-known Contemporary R&B musicians. His debut album Faith went to the top of the R&B album chart in the US, making him the first white artist to achieve this honor. Faith produced an amazing chart-topping singles, including a U.S. R&B number-one hit. The album also won several music award including the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Michael Jackson remained a prominent figure in the genre, following the release of his album Bad which sold 30 million copies.

During the early 1990s, new jack swing/R&B group Boyz II Men, the most successful R&B male vocal group of all time, re-popularized classic soul-inspired vocal harmonies. Michael Jackson also incorporated new jack swing into his 1991 album Dangerous, with sales of 30 million copies it is a prominent example of the genre attracting mainstream notoriety. Several similar groups (such as Shai, Soul for Real, Az Yet, All-4-One, and Dru Hill) followed in their footsteps. Boyz II Men and several of their competitors benefited from producers such as Babyface and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. As a solo artist, Babyface and contemporaries such as Brian McKnight eschewed prominent hip hop influences, and recorded in a smooth, soft style of R&B.

In contrast to the works of Boyz II Men, Babyface and similar artists, other R&B artists from this same period began adding even more of a hip hop sound to their work. The synthesizer-heavy rhythm tracks of new jack swing was replaced by grittier East Coast hip hop-inspired backing tracks, resulting in a genre labeled hip hop soul by producer Sean Combs. Hip hop soul artists such as Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, R. Kelly, Monica, Brandy, Ginuwine, Usher and Aaliyah brought more of hip hop slang, suggestive or explicitly sexual lyrics, style, and attitude to R&B music. This subgenre includes a heavy gospel influence in terms of vocal inflections and sounds. The style became less popular by the end of the 1990s, but later experienced a resurgence.

During the mid 1990s, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, girl groups TLC and SWV and Boyz II Men brought contemporary R&B to the mainstream. Jackson's self-titled fifth studio album janet. (1993), which came after her historic multi-million dollar contract with Virgin Records sold over ten million copies worldwide. Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey recorded several Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits, including "One Sweet Day", a collaboration between both acts which became the longest-running number-one hit in Hot 100 history. Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men and TLC released albums in 1994 and 1995—Daydream, II , and CrazySexyCool respectively — that sold over ten million copies, earning them diamond RIAA certification. Other top-selling R&B artists from this era included Vanessa L. Williams,Toni Braxton, Ginuwine, Mary J. Blige, Brandy, Monica, Mya, Aaliyah, Usher and R. Kelly, and groups En Vogue, BLACKstreet, Salt-N-Pepa, SWV, Jodeci/K-Ci & JoJo and Destiny's Child.

In the late 1990s, neo soul (which added 1970s soul influences to the hip hop soul blend) arose, led by artists such as D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Maxwell. Artists such as like Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott further blurred the line between R&B and hip hop by recording both styles. As 1999 ended, Billboard magazine ranked Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson as the first and second most successful artists of the 1990s.

In the United Kingdom, R&B found its way into the UK garage subgenre of 2-step, typified by R&B-style singing accompanied by breakbeat/drum and bass rhythms. Among the most notable 2-step acts are Mis-Teeq, Lisa Maffia and Craig David, who crossed over to American R&B audiences in the early 2000s.

Soulful R&B continues to be popular, with artists such as Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J Blige, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Mario, Alicia Keys, Lyfe Jennings, Tyrese, Anthony Hamilton, Ashanti, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Pink, and John Legend showcasing classic influences in their work.

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Source : Wikipedia