For the past three months Lauryn Hill has been behind bars for tax evasion. Hill chose to mark her release on Friday with a new single, “Consumerism.”
The coming out track is a blistering jam that has Hill speed-rapping through a heady list of societal woes -- and her targets are wide-ranging.
Ageism, sexism, egotism, racism, fascism, McCarthyism and commercialism all get a heavy lashing. Hill’s sharp delivery is lightning quick, like her pre-incarceration single “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix),” requires multiple listens just to pick up what she has to say -- and she has a lot to say. It all happens atop chaotic instrumentation and chanting (not to mention haunting) voices.
Despite it’s jarring arrangement, “Consumerism” feels more focused and less confounding than recent offerings such as “Neurotic Society” and “Black Rage,” which she debuted during her 2012 joint tour with Nas.
The new single was penned before she reported to the Federal Correctional Institute in Connecticut, and was mixed while she was serving time. It appears to be part of a collection of work she’s calling “Letters to Exile,” according to a statement.
"’Consumerism’ is part of some material I was trying to finish before I had to come in. We did our best to eek 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,” she wrote in a message that accompanied the single on her Tumblr page.
“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 it’s level."
In May, the Grammy-winning singer was convicted of failing to pay taxes on more than $2 million from 2005 to 2009.
Before sentencing she likened the music business to the slavery of her ancestors, and said she stopped paying taxes when she walked away from the industry in order to protect herself and her six children. Earlier this year Hill announced she had reached a deal with Sony to launch a new label on which to release new music.
Listen to “Consumerism” below: