How Nina Simone Became Hip Hop’s “Secret Weapon”

How Nina Simone Became Hip Hop’s “Secret Weapon”

In 1996, the Fugees burst on the scene with “Ready or Not,” and most listeners were not ready: for the ominous, eclectic, Caribbean-inflected production, the smooth, sexy menace of Lauryn Hill’s hook (“you can’t hide / Gonna find you and take it slowly”), or the interplay of references in the breakout star’s rhymes. “Rap orgies with Porgy and Bess / Capture your bounty like Eliot Ness,” Hill raps, and then a few lines later, “So while you’re imitating Al Capone, I’ll be Nina Simone / And defecating on your microphone.”The tongue-in-cheek line introduced a generation of fans to the iconic singer and virtuoso pianist, who could and did play everything from blues, jazz, soul, cabaret, classical, and Broadway tunes like those from the Gershwin classic. [READ MORE ON OPENCULTURE]