The Conspiracy Files: Lauryn Hill’s Tax Situation

“The meeting is called to order,” Okra said in low tones. “As each of you know, the circumstances of this meeting are dire. The arts in our community are in major trouble and damaging the collective psyche of the community. Q, read the report.”

Q opened a dossier, but he seemed to know the content by heart. “We’re in a culture crisis. There’s no doubt that the quality of content in our music has gone down tremendously. We’ve got word that Ray J–”

“You mean Brandy’s brother?” interjected Conspiracy Brother.

“The very same,” replied Q. “He’s working on a song called “I Hit It First”…about Kim Kardashian. Booty injections are at an all time high…some women are even getting them illegally. The phenomenon of making it rain resulted in many Black men literally throwing money away. We’ve reached a point where Magoo–”

“You mean the weak one out of the Timbaland, Aaliyah, Missy, Ginuwine SupaFriends crew?”–interjected Conspiracy Brother again.

“The very same,” said Q. “We’ve done the analysis, and were Magoo rapping today, he would be in the 90th percentile of popular rappers today.”

The room gasped.

“There’s no Claire Huxtable–no Huxtables of any kind, really. No Dwayne Wayne or Whitley Gilbert. Just Real Housewives, Love and Hip Hop, and Oliv–”

“Don’t you say it!” exclaimed Tyler, who had said nothing up to this point. “I love that show! I hashtag everything!”

“We all do,” said Q, picking his afro with his ever present pick. “But face facts: the TV role models for Black kids are sorely lacking. You’ve got Joseline and Mimi fighting over Steebie frickin’ J?  Even the women who they show on Married to Medicine come out looking terrible. It’s not just women. We narrowly averted having a show about something called a Shawty Lo and all his baby mamas…entitled, “All My Baby Mamas.” And we all know that this isn’t the totality of our culture…not even close. But it’s the totality of what’s on television and radio these days. It’s sex, fighting, utter ignorance. And these images are broadcast into the minds of our children, our people, and all around the world. We need an intervention.”

“What do you propose?” asked Okra?

“I’ll leave the details to Conspiracy Brother,” said Q.

Conspiracy Brother leaned in. “Desperate times call for desperate measures. In phase 1, we tried to bring Tupac back from Cuba, and told everybody he was a hologram at Coachella.The media bought it, and we’d hoped to get some more music in the vein of “Keep Your Head Up,” “Smile,” “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” stuff like that. People would ride for Tupac. But he’s not ready…something about a 7 day theory. And he said something about going back to Cuba to defend his godmother. We must be patient with him. We had Derrick Rose installed in Chicago–I think his shoulders are strong enough to carry the city. But with his knee injury, people have already turned on him, forgotten about what he can represent. It’s shaken him. But he’ll be back. Q here has been working with D’Angelo, and that guy is almost back. Shawn and Beyonce are working out far better than we’d hoped, better than Bob and Sheila turned out. But it’s not enough. It’s just not enough. We need to do something…drastic.”

“What are you suggesting?” asked Kevin Hart, who was clapping with every syllable for emphasis. He also was the only person around the table who was standing up, but no one really could tell.

“He’s saying we’ve gotta bring Lauryn Hill back. She can sing, she can rap, she’s smart, she can act, she’s beautiful. She’s brave and speaks truth to power. She can save this thing.” said Q. “But how?”

Conspiracy Brother sighed. “We’ve gotta give her something to write about. For the past three years, we’ve had a shady advisor telling her that she doesn’t need to pay taxes. She believed him.”

Okra just shook her head. “Always pay your taxes. Especially if you’re Black and rich. Like me.”

“We know, Okra,” the room said in unison.

“She’s feeling persecuted,” continued Conspiracy Brother. “Like a modern day slave. And the pressure has gotten to her…she now realizes she might go to jail for real. So she’s in the studio. And she’s been recording. We had Rohan sneak this out to us:”


“Well,” sighed Okra, “it’s a start. But did she have to go to prison, though?”

“We got it down from three years to three months,” said Conspiracy Brother. “And with any luck, she’ll be out in one.”

“I know she got So Much Things to Say Right Now,” yelled Kevin Hart, still clapping. “That tax bill was killing her softly!”

“Too soon, Kevin,” said Okra. “Too soon.”

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