Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill stood in federal court Monday and compared her experience in the music business to the slavery her ancestors endured before a judge sentenced her to three months in prison for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes over the past decade.
"I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them," Hill said before U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo. "I had an economic system imposed on me."
Hill, who started singing with the Fugees as a teenager in the 1990s before releasing her multiplatinum 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, pleaded guilty last year to failing to pay taxes on more than $1.8 million earned from 2005 to 2007. Monday's sentencing also took into account unpaid state and federal taxes in 2008 and 2009 that brought the total earnings to about $2.3 million.
Despite having paid more than $900,000 in the past several days, Hill still owes interest and penalties, the U.S. attorney's office said.
In a forceful but controlled statement to the judge punctuated by occasional raps with her first on the podium, Hill described how she failed to pay taxes during a period when she'd dropped out of the music business to protect herself and her children, who now number six.