For many years, one of the biggest questions looming in the music world has been, “Where is Lauryn Hill?” After creating critically acclaimed work as a member of the Fugees and as a successful solo artist, she stopped releasing music. This caused many fans to ask why someone at the top of the music world would leave it all behind. She began making rare appearances, building a mystique around her personality, story and work. In the Rap world, some have begged for her return while her former group members have said she is “mentally ill” and “the problem.” Through it all, few have gotten her to speak on the incredibly long hiatus. However, she seems to be poised for more appearances this year. She’s presently committed to performing at this year’s Rock the Bells and she recently did the Harmony Festival. It was at this Festival that NPR got a chance to speak with Ms. Hill about a variety of things, including that hiatus.

“There were a number of different reasons,” she told NPR when asked why she stopped releasing music. “But partly, the support system that I needed was not necessarily in place. There were things about myself, personal-growth things, that I had to go through in order to feel like it was worth it. In fact, as musicians and artists, it’s important we have an environment β€” and I guess when I say environment, I really mean the [music] industry, that really nurtures these gifts. Oftentimes, the machine can overlook the need to take care of the people who produce the sounds that have a lot to do with the health and well-being of society, or at least some aspect of society. And it’s important that people be given the time that they need to go through, to grow, so that the consciousness level of the general public is properly affected. Oftentimes, I think people are forced to make decisions prematurely. And then that sound radiates.”

Adding some insight, Hill also shared that she has five children, the youngest of which is 2 years old.

“I don’t know if you know this, but I have five children. The youngest is 2 now, so she’s old enough that I can leave her for a period of time and know she’s going to be okay. That’s one reason [Hill is starting to perform again]. And I think it’s just time. I’m starting to get excited again. Believe it or not, I think what people are attracted to about me, if anything, is my passion. People got exposed to my passion through music and song first. I think people might realize, you know, ‘We love the way she sounds, we love the music, but I think we just love how fearless she is. How boundless she is, when it comes to what she wants to do.’ And I think that can be infectious.”

Ms. Hill also spoke on the importance of taking care of herself when she is asked about the responsibility that comes with being an influential voice.

“I have to take care of myself in order to take care of this gift, which has affected so many. I don’t treat it lightly. It’s important to me to be healthy and to be whole.”

She also said that if she records again, fans may hear a different side of her.

“I’m trying to open up my range and really sing more. With The Fugees initially, and even with Miseducation, it was very hip-hop β€” always a singing over beats. I don’t think people have really heard me sing out. So if I do record again, perhaps it will have an expanded context. Where people can hear a bit more.”