By Jon Wiederhorn
With less than two weeks left to pay $504,400 in back taxes to the IRS, Lauryn Hill has spoken up for the first time about her financial situation and her new recording contract.
In a post on her Tumblr page Thursday night, Hill confirmed reports that she has signed with Sony Music and is working on her first new music since her 2010 single "Repercussions," and her first multi-song studio release since her 1998 solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
"It took years for me to get out of the 'parasitic' dynamic of my youth, and into a deal that better reflects my true contribution as an artist, and (purportedly) gives me the control necessary to create a paradigm suitable for my needs," Hill wrote. "I have been working towards this for a long time, not just because of my current legal situation, but because I am an artist, I love to create, and I need the proper platform to do so."
She added that the press reports that she will be paid a million dollars for five songs isn’t quite right. "The nature of my new business venture, as well as the dollar amount reported, was inaccurate, only a portion of the overall deal."
Hill didn’t describe what any of her new music will sound like or when it will be released, instead taking the majority of her 353-word post to explain how she has been manipulated and taken advantage of by the music industry despite selling 50 million albums worldwide:
"This has been a 10-plus year battle, for a long time played out behind closed doors, but now in front of the public eye," she wrote. "This is an old conflict between art and commerce… free minds, and minds that are perhaps overly tethered to structure. This is about inequity, and the resulting disenfranchisement caused by it. I’ve been fighting for existential and economic freedom, which means the freedom to create and live without someone threatening, controlling, and/or manipulating the art and the artist, by tying the purse strings."
Without naming names, Hill blamed the corporations and handlers that took advantage of her for putting her in a position where she was unable to play taxes on the $1.8 million she earned between 2005 and 2007. Late last year, Hill pleaded guilty, and paid $50,000 of the taxes she owed. On April 22, Judge Madeline Cox postponed sentencing, giving her until May 6 to pay the remaining half-million.
"Only a completely complicated set of traps, manipulations, and inequitable business arrangements could put someone who has accomplished the things that I have, financially in need of anything," Hill said.
Clearly, Hill feels she was "miseducated" about the nature of the music business. As a member of the mid-90s soulful hip-hop group Fugees she was part of the six-time platinum 1996 album The Score, and as a solo artist, her 1998 record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill went eight times platinum, and her 2002 disc MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 went platinum.
Now she says she's finally ready to talk about what went wrong.
"I am one artist who finds value in openly discussing the dynamics within this industry that force artists to compromise or distort themselves and what they do, rather than allowing them to make the music that people need," she said. "There are volumes that could (and will) be said."
Hopefully Hill can hand over some major cash to the Feds before then, otherwise she may be speaking "volumes" from behind locked doors.