After several posts discussing the gravity of the lyrics of Ms. Lauryn Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity” this is finally the one where they get to be fleshed out. The song begins with the chorus/hook that we can skip over, because it just discusses the “mystery of iniquity” which basically means the mystery of wrongdoing, and she says “children, eat your bread”  which I am assuming is referring to be knowledgable, feed your brain. Then comes the long verse which takes up the rest of the song, which I will discuss in parts.

Y’all can’t handle the truth in a courtroom of lies
Perjures the jurors, witness despised
Crooked lawyers, false indictments publicized
It’s entertainment, the arraignments, the subpoenas
High profile gladiators in bloodthirsty arenas
Enter the Dragon, black-robe crooked-balance
Souls bought and sold and paroled for thirty talents
Court reporter catch the circus on the paper

Clearly, here she is very much referencing the flaws in the legal system. The dragon is the judge, the blood thirsty arenas are courts. She refers to a trial as a circus. She also claims it’s entertainment and says it’s publicized, which already shows her hatred for fame, and how the court uses it.

File it in the system not acknowledged by the Maker
Swearing by the bible blatantly blasphemous
Publicly perpetrating that “In God We Trust”
Cross-examined by a master manipulator

As mentioned in a previous post, Lauryn Hill is very religious, and at this time especially was studying the Bible. These four lines are cleverly phrased to explained how blasphemous it is to have the court claim to rely on faith when it is a system not acknowledged by the Maker(God) but is ruled by the master manipulator, which I’m not sure who or what that represents. She continues on this tangent for a few more lines, and then goes into the political side of the legal system.

The prosecution, political prostitution
The more money you pay, the further away solution
Legal actors, Babylon’s benefactors
Masquerading as the agency for the clients
Hypocritical giants, morally non-compliant
Orally armed to do bodily harm
Polluted, recruited and suited judicial charm
And the defense isn’t making any sense
Faking the confidence of escaping the consequence
That a defendant is depending on the system
Totally void of judgment purposely made to twist em’

This part is referring to the fact that many trials have a political bias, or those working the case are doing it for other intentions. She claims that some attorneys are masquerading as if to be an advocate for their clients. “orally armed to do bodily harm” is referring to the fact that their words can hurt someone, whether it be their mental state or career/reputation.

In the song, Hill does not only express frustration towards the legal, but the fact that they are racially biased.  Mass incarceration was a huge issue when this song  was written, and continues today. The following parts of the verse are all discussing the racism in and out of courtroom.

Emotional victim blackmailed by the henchmen
Framed by intentions
Inventions whereby they lynch men

It’s time for rebirth, burnin up the branch and the root
The empty pursuits of every tree bearing the wrong fruit

Here she even references Strange Fruit while discussing the need for a rebirth.

The last lyrics I think are the gut-hitting kind of lyrics, so I felt the need to include them.

How long will you sleep, troubled by the thoughts that YOU keep
The idols YOU heap, causing the destruction you reap
Judgment has come, find it and return to the One
Abandon the flesh, self-interest: Broadway to death
Pride and the Greed, hide and subdividing the seed
The knowledge of Good and Evil is what caused us to lie
Caused us to die, let your emotions be crucified
Renounce all your thoughts
Repent and let your mind be re-taught
You’ll find what you sought
Was based on the deception you bought
A perception of naught where the majority remains caught
Loving a lie, not realizing in Adam, all die
Loving a lie, not realizing in Adam, all die
Loving a lie, not realizing in Adam, all die
Loving a lie, not realizing in Adam, all die

She ends by repeating the last line five times. During another song in the same album,  Lauryn explains that when she says Adam she means all of humanity. So she is basically saying we are living by a lie and not realizing that in the end we all die.

I think though these lyrics are extremely powerful, but there are no clear solutions to the problem. Obviously, it is not an artists job to reform the U.S legal system, but I hope in some ways her words made or will make an impact.