Being a white boy raised in the suburbs of LA, I did not have a lot of experience with hip-hop growing up. As a child, the bands that were popular among my peers were locals, such as Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I myself was never interested enough in music to actually buy albums or even decide what kind of music I cared for, so I ended up listening to whatever cd's my sisters had. Although it was, for the most part, bands like Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of my sisters had The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and it became one of my favorite albums.
I grew up in a very conservative area, and was exposed to a lot of sexism growing up. I found it frustrating and stupid (especially when my parents didn't let me play with my sisters' dolls or watch The Powerpuff Girls), so I became more interested in feminism and women's rights. This is what made me appreciate Luaryn Hill. Lauryn Hill, like many other artists, sung about sex and relationships, but was perhaps the first artist I had heard that did not do it in a sexist way. "That Thing" was not just about how some men use women for sex, but also about how some women use men for sex. I appreciated the way her album criticized sexism, which was a stark contrast to the rampant sexism in other rapper's music (such as my eldest sister's Eminem albums, which I did not care for).
Additionally I appreciated the religious imagery in her album. Her lyrics weren't about how the Bible is true and Jesus is cool. It was about religious hypocrisy. It was about how people will use religion to gain power over others, instead of using it to help them. "Forgive them Father" in particular resonated with me, as it was about giving these people, and asking God to give these people, forgiveness.
Lauryn Hill is the person that made me realize that hip-hop (and music in general, really) can be about positive things, rather than just sex and relationships and partying. Although I didn't seek out hip-hop as a result of Lauryn Hill, I did appreciate it more.