Paying tribute to a music legend of Nina Simone's caliber is no walk in the park, but Lauryn Hill and Jazmine Sullivan made a pretty valiant effort. Billboard reports that both singers took the stage at Harlem's Apollo Theater on Monday night (June 1) to honor the icon following a screening of the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?
Though the film revisited a gloomy period in the High Priestess of Soul's life, the evening's energy was geared towards the opposite: celebrating her life and legacy. Ahead of the release of an upcoming tribute album to Simone featuring the likes of Mary J. Blige, Usher, Robert Glasper and more, Lauryn Hill took the stage to perform a brief set of covers and original songs.
According to the account of the show's attendees, the former Fugees first lady had a few technical and vocal setbacks during her set but delivered an energetic and genuine performance nonetheless. She began the set with Simone's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" followed by a stirring rendition of "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair."
Hill then took the gutsy route in performing a brand new song which didn't quite pan out as she had planned. After three false starts in attempting to set the levels right for the ambitious new track, which was set over an interpolation of Simone's "Ain't Got No, I Got Life," Hill decided to pass the mic to Jazmine Sullivan, who brought the house down with her own rendition of the protest anthem "Baltimore." "She can sing for the both of us," Hill said after handing over the mic.
L-Boogie didn't throw in the towel, though. She returned for the closing number of the night, "African Mailman," which actually turned out to be the most rousing performance, based on the audience's reaction. Adding a modern twist to the instrumental track, each musician took turns playing a solo section at Hill's commands — c'mon band leader, L — sending the crowd into a frenzy.
After the band hit the final note, Hill said over the screams of the crowd, "Thank you, Nina Simone, for existing — and being bold enough to speak."
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