Old Favourites: Lauryn Hill – “Doo Wop (That Thing)”

“Showin’ off your ass ‘coz you thinkin’ it’s a trend, girlfriend…”

Though it’s somewhat admirable that Ms. Lauryn Hill went into semi-retirement from music in order to raise a family, one can’t help but wonder what would – or, indeed, may – happen were she to follow up her seminal solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Would she ever be able to top it? And, more in sync with today’s subject, would she ever create a video as masterful and timeless as this one? Not only does Doo Wop (That Thing) remain one of her defining songs, with or without The Fugees; it also stands as her defining music video – to this day, no-one’s ever made anything quite like it.

Here’s the skinny, conceptually – Lauryn performs the exact same song at the exact same block party at the exact same area of New York City…except 33 years apart. One is in 1967, the other in 1998. This video is a reflection of American culture and time-honoured tradition, particularly within the black community. I recall seeing this video a lot when I was growing up and never really having a grasp of what exactly was being presented before me – just digging the song that went “that thing that thing that thiii-iii-iii-iiiing.” Now, I see it for something much greater – it’s commentary on how far we’ve come, questioning if it’s really as much as one would think. Sure, there’s the superficial things like fashion and performance styles, but what about things like community and romance, both displayed consistently throughout either side of the screen? It’s certainly food for thought.

This is one of my all-time favourite videos, so I’m glad I finally got around to writing about it. Wherever you are, Ms. Hill, please consider following up the album. Even if it’s not as good, at least we’ll know that you tried! Hell, come down to Australia and I’ll help you write it! How does Splendour in the Grass sound?

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