Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill stood in federal court Monday and compared her experience in the music business to the slavery her ancestors endured before a judge sentenced her to three months in prison for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes over the past decade.
“I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them,” Hill said before U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo. “I had an economic system imposed on me.”
Hill, who started singing with the Fugees as a teenager in the 1990s before releasing her multiplatinum 1998 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” pleaded guilty last year to failing to pay taxes on more than $1.8 million earned from 2005 to 2007. Monday’s sentencing also took into account unpaid state and federal taxes in 2008 and 2009 that brought the total earnings to about $2.3 million.
Despite having paid more than $900,000 in the past several days, Hill still owes interest and penalties, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
In a forceful but controlled statement to the judge punctuated by occasional raps with her first on the podium, Hill described how she failed to pay taxes during a period when she’d dropped out of the music business to protect herself and her children, who now number six.
Ms. Lauryn Hill posted this on Tumblr:
I’ve remained silent, after an extensive healing process. This has been a 10+ year battle, for a long time played out behind closed doors, but now in front of the public eye. 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.
Lauryn needs to stay off the hooch for awhile.