The year was 2002 when Lauryn Hill released “Mystery of Iniquity” after it being recorded for MTV Unplugged the previous year. The U.S was in an all too familiar slump, the republican president was highly disliked, Tom Brady led the Patriots to win the Super bowl. But Lauryn Hill was thinking about completely different issues at the time. Hill had taken herself out of fame in every way she had found possible. She started going to spiritual advisors and attending Bible classes. She made several comments alluding to the fact that she as doing some self-seeking because the pressure of celebrity was getting to her. With the release of her MTV Unplugged no. 2, fans were given several new striped down songs from the artist who had not released anything since the innovative “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” The song and album as a whole had a spiritually guided subject matter, while also¬† expressing frustration with several parts of society in the U.S at the time.

The song’s first verse jumps right into Hill’s frustration with the legal system with lines like:

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

She goes on for most of the song discussing the problems with the U.S. legal system. At this time, Hill had already faced lawsuits for”Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Four artists had claimed she did not properly credit them for their songs and production skills. This could partly be her expressing frustration due to this case, but it could also have something bigger. The song goes on to discuss forms of racism. With lines such as:

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

This line has a clear reference to “Strange Fruit.” There are several other lines with references to racism and rebirth, but this one sticks out the most to me since it is such a clear allusion. Adding this all together, Hill may be discussing more than just her legal troubles. She may have been writing this song to protest the way the legal system treats people of color. This subject matter would not have been new at the time, but it is definitely something that would have been worth writing a song about.