“Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill

Even if “Ex-Factor” is about an “ex” boyfriend of Lauryn Hill’s, as some listeners contend, the lyrics are being relayed in the present tense. That is to say that the singer is speaking as if she is actively in a relationship with the addressee, that being her significant other.  And basically, what she is doing throughout is lamenting the state of their romance.  More to the point, Lauryn presents herself as the victim of emotional abuse and neglect.  And even though this relationship is tearing her apart, she is so much in love that she cannot turn her abusive, on-and-off partner away.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Lauryn Hill's Ex-Factor at Lyrics.org.

So in the end, whereas she is still beefing about the entire scenario, she is also fundamentally entreating him to treat her better. But the way she goes about doing so isn’t by entirely focusing on herself. Yes, she does desire for him to ‘care for her’ and to be there when she needs him. Indeed she longs for him to treat her well in general. But it can also be deduced that she wants him to focus on living a more-edifying life – for his own sake – in general.

Facts about “Ex-Factor”

This track can be found on Lauryn Hill’s epic maiden solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. In fact it was the second of three singles released from that project. And the labels that put it out, on the date of 8 December 1998, are Ruffhouse Records and Columbia Records. The other two singles birthed by the project are:

FYI: Lauryn’s famous diss track (“Lost Ones“) targeted at Wyclef is also a product of her iconic “Miseducation” album.

Lauryn is credited as the sole writer and producer of “Ex-Factor”. And on the instrumental, she samples a track by another 1990s hip-hop act, the Wu-Tang Clan, entitled “Can It Be All So Simple” (1994).

“Ex-Factor” was also later sampled by big-name rap acts, such as Drake on his 2018 track “Nice for What” and Cardi B on a song she released that same year entitled “Be Careful”.

“Ex Factor” was recorded partially in New York City and partially in Kingston, Jamaica.

According to Vada Nobles, one of the producers of “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, this song is entitled “Ex-Factor” because it was originally conceptualized to be used by a female group who were known as Ex Factor. However, it was ultimately decided that Lauryn should drop it herself due to its personal nature of the narrative contained therein.

It went on to top the UK R&B Chart and appear on the Billboard Hot 100 for 22 weeks, peaking at position number 21. And overall it charted in a dozen nations.

Interesting to note is that Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill’s former boyfriend/bandmate who many people feel this song is about, has actually praised it. He compared it to what is perhaps his own most-heartfelt tracks, “911” (2000) alongside Mary J. Blige.

2 Responses

  1. Selph Johnson says:

    I have a TOTALLY different meaning of the song and would want to speak to Ms. Lauryn Hill about it.

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