Study Guide

Doo Wop (That Thing)

Doo Wop (That Thing) Introduction

In a Nutshell

Lauryn Hill was one of the hugest success stories of the 1990s, and "Doo Wop (That Thing)" was the song you couldn't go anywhere without hearing for a while in 1998 and 1999.

But shortly after The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill shot the former Fugees frontwoman's solo career quickly into the big-time, Hill disappeared from the scene, stopped making albums, and focused on her personal life. A life that some said was falling apart.

In "Doo Wop (That Thing)," Hill gently chastises both women and men for playing mind games with each other, being dishonest, and giving up sex too easily. 

At only 23, she already felt strong and mature enough to urge others to walk the straight path, or at least her idea of the straight path. Astonishingly, she pulled off the moral high ground on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill with grace and humility. 

But by the time she was 25, Hill's own personal issues had been laid out in front of fans and foes alike, often against her will.

"She woulda been bigger than J-Lo," said a friend. (Source)

Miseducation aside, what exactly happened to Lauryn Hill?

About the Song

ArtistHill, Lauryn
Year1998
LabelColumbia Records
Writer(s)Lauryn Hill
Producer(s)Lauryn Hill
Musician(s)Lauryn Hill (vocals); Jenni Fujita, Fundisha Johnson, Rasheem Pugh, Lenesha Randolph (backing vocals); Che Guevara, Vada Nobles (drum programming); DJ Supreme (mixing), Dean Frasier (saxophone), Indigo Quartet (strings), James Poyser (keys), Everol Ray (trumpet), Ronald "Nambo" Robinson (trombone)
Learn to playPiano
AlbumThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Music Video

Influences on Hill, Lauryn

Prince
Aretha Franklin
Billie Holiday
Marvin Gaye
Al Green
Stevie Wonder
The Fugees
Joni Mitchell
Roberta Flack
Bob Marley

Influenced by Hill, Lauryn

Prince
John Legend
Alicia Keys
Christina Aguilera
Talib Kweli
Kanye West
Beyoncé
Jazmine Sullivan

Doo Wop (That Thing) Resources

Books

Touré, Never Drank the Kool-Aid: Essays (2006)
This eclectic, clever, and fun collection by long-time Village Voice music writer and self-made hip-hop expert Touré includes two Rolling Stone stories on Hill, "Lauryn Hill in Love" (1999) and "The Mystery of Lauryn Hill" (2003). You can also read about Beyoncé, Biggie Smalls, and many more legends.

Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the N**** (1933)
This book, re-printed in 2005, is a beautiful and controversial diatribe on internalized racism in Jim Crow-era United States. It argues that young Black people are educated to believe in their own inferiority and must educate themselves to overcome it. It was part of the inspiration behind the title of Lauryn Hill's debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Albums

Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
Hill's first solo album may turn out to be her only solo album. But hey, at least it was one of the greatest albums of the late 20th century.

Lauryn Hill, MTV Unplugged No. 2.0: Lauryn Hill (2002)
Hill's follow-up album was recorded live in one night. She plays the guitar on every track, a move considered bold by some, humiliating by others. In any case, the album flopped terribly and was said to expose Lauryn Hill's personal breakdown a little more openly than many audience members wanted.

The Fugees, The Score (1996)
After a first album that bombed, the Fugees' sophomore effort was considered revolutionary, blending a soul sensibility and reggae inspiration with great hip-hop. Hill's reinterpretation of Roberta Flack's 1973 hit "Killing Me Softly With His Song" on this album was a radio classic for years to come and paved the way for her solo career.

Images

Lauryn Hill
Her dreadlocked look became emblematic of her spiritual and political outlook.

Lauryn Hill Portrait
Lauryn Hill is as notorious for her beauty as she is for her musical talent.

Lauryn Hill's 1999 Rolling Stone Cover
Following her 1998 smash album, Hill made it on the cover of music's top magazine.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Album Cover
This image of Lauryn Hill was so iconic for a while in the late '90s, that her face adorned a designer watch (she talks about her G Shock in Touré's 1999 "Lauryn Hill in Love" interview), among other consumer goods.

Movies & TV

Love Jones (1997)
This dated '90s romance film is a fun one, and it also features one of Hill's first solo tracks, "The Sweetest Thing."

Sister Act 2 (1993)
Before the Fugees made it big, Lauryn Hill was known as "that girl who was in Sister Act 2." Not exactly a source of great notoriety, but there you have it: Hill's acting career.

Websites

Lauryn Hill's Official Site
Keep up to date on Hill's occasional appearances, news coverage, and merchandise, but don't expect anything too new and shiny out of the former Fugee these days.

"Educating Lauryn," Village Voice (1998)
For a compilation of reviews on Hill's hit debut album, head over to this 1998 article.

"The Many Voices of Lauryn Hill," NPR (2010)
Hill doesn't give many interviews, so this one with NPR is a must-read.

Laura Checkoway, "Inside The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," Rolling Stone (2008)
This long article published on the ten-year anniversary of the album's release looks back at the ups and downs of Lauryn Hill's career and the never-before-told stories behind the album's creation through a set of interviews with many of those involved.

Claude Grunitzky, "The Prophet: Lauryn Hill," The Trace (2005)
Grunitzky's painful but exciting description of an interview with Lauryn Hill several years after her self-imposed exiled says a lot about what happened to Hill, but it also leaves many questions unanswered.

Kathy Iandoli, "Lauryn Hill Owes Us Nothing," Pitchfork (2015)
Hill has explained that she doesn't want to produce music just to please her fans. Iandoli explores this with an article written over a decade after Miseducation's release.

Maxwell and Genevieve Glass, "New Again: Lauryn Hill," Interview (1998)
Before the release of her '98 debut album, Hill did a casual chit-chat with fellow musician Maxwell.

Ann Powers, "Crossing Back Over From Profane to Sacred," The New York Times (1998)
Music critic Ann Powers reviews Miseducation and thoroughly covers the origins of reggae, soul, and hip-hop, and how Hill makes these genres her own.

Touré, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Album Review," Rolling Stone (1998)
Touré's has lucked out with an interview with Hill, so be sure to check out his fantastic review, too.

Touré, "The Mystery of Lauryn Hill," Rolling Stone (2003)
Touré delves into Hill's sudden stardom and disappointing disappearance.

Basim Usmani, "The Resurrection of Lauryn Hill," Vice (2014)
Following Hill's 2013 stint in prison, she gave this interview covering her thoughts on America's prison system.

Video & Audio

"Doo Wop (That Thing)" Music Video (1998)
This video takes place at two block parties in New York City, one in 1967 and the other in 1998.

"The Many Voices of Lauryn Hill," NPR (2010)
NPR's "50 Great Voices" series features Lauryn Hill and includes interviews with friends and fellow musicians about the importance of her career. Hill herself gives a charming yet serious interview and suggests she'll record new music.