Looks like it ain't workin' for Ms. Lauryn Hill this year. On Monday, the singer was slapped with a three-month prison sentence with a following three months on house arrest for failing to pay taxes on about $1.8 million in earnings.
Hill's lawyer conveyed that the singer had already paid in excess of $970,000 to settle her tax responsibilities, and sought probation in lieu of hard time. She was facing up to three years in prison, so three months is not as bad as it could have been.
In an intense, but restrained statement to the court, the singer said as she knocked her fist on the podium, "I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them," before U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo. "I had an economic system imposed on me."
The 37-year-old pleaded guilty to tax evasion last year for money made between 2005 and 2007, justifying that she was unable to work because of her treatment by the entertainment industry. She added, "There were veiled threats, there was blacklisting, I was told, 'That's how it goes, it comes with the territory.' I came to be perceived as a cash cow and not a person. When people capitalize on a persona, they forget there is a person in there."
At her sentence hearing this week, Hill stated that she had always intended to eventually pay her outstanding taxes and went on to say, "I needed to be able to earn so I could pay my taxes, without compromising the health and welfare of my children, and I was being denied that." Hill has six children, five with Bob Marley's son Rohan Marley.
Indeed, the ex-Fugees singer had not released an official studio album since her lauded 1998 solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and had been working only sporadically since for more than a decade amid what appears to be a steady stream of controversy.
Starting off her career as one of the most promising young voices of the '90s, the New Jersey-born singer and rapper became a household name with the Grammy-winning Fugees remake of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly." Her fame in the music industry also led to roles in movies like Sister Act II. But the public perception of her started to change in 1996, when Hill was accused of being racist. "The Howard Stern Show" broadcasted that the singer allegedly said on MTV, "I would rather have my family starve than have white people buy my albums." Both MTV and Hill hotly denied the quote, but the incident still resonated with audiences.
In the 2000s, Hill dropped out of the public eye and immersed herself in religious study, later citing her dissatisfaction with the music industry and a controlling label as the cause. A Fugees reunion was attempted in 2005, but the promised album never materialized. Hill's own tours in the late 2000s were not a complete success either, as the singer would frequently be hours late, passed out onstage once, and cancelled a 10-day European tour after only two dates.
Hill is currently working on a new album set to drop this year, but her jail sentence start date has not yet been released. There could be a chance the album will be delayed.
Due to a "legal deadline", Ms. Hill released a new song "Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)" just last week.