"I used to be a performer, but I really don't consider myself a performer anymore," says an introspective Lauryn Hill at the beginning of her live, two-disc set of new material, MTV Unplugged No. 2.0
. "I'm just sharing." And share -- the joys and the pains she's experienced during her four-year absence from the spotlight -- is exactly what Hill does. In a surprising move for a renowned singer and rapper, Hill accompanies herself on an instrument she's still learning, the acoustic guitar, rendering the mesmerizing and emotive 22-song set even more intimate. Throughout, she huskily (and sometimes hoarsely) sings and raps heartfelt, spiritually attuned songs of redemption and rebirth (the confessional "I Gotta Find Peace of Mind"), rebellion (the Bob Marley
-esque "Oh Jerusalem"), and renewed romance (the bossa nova-sprinkled "Just Want You Around"). Shedding some light on what prompted her transformation, the former Fugee admits that at the height of her career -- she won five Grammys in 1999 for her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
, including Album of the Year -- she felt trapped by her public persona, but has since learned to love and accept the real Lauryn. "This is the first time you're meeting me," the married mother of three tells her audience. "Don't think you met me before." While this Lauryn is less inclined to rock designer rags or entertain others' opinions, she remains one of hip-hop's leading visionaries. And her fearlessness -- especially on the breathtaking "Peace of Mind," where she breaks into tears while singing the praises of "a merciful, wonderful God" -- is truly inspirational.