On May 6, 2013 Lauryn Hill was sentenced to three months in prison for failure to pay taxes. This song was written before Hill's incarceration, mixed during her confinement and made available as a single to mark her release. It finds the former Fugees singer rapping about society's crazy ways.
Hill explained the song is the first part of a larger project titled Letters From Exile, which she has been working on after signing a deal with Sony Music. "'Consumerism' is part of some material I was trying to finish before I had to come in," she said. "We did our best to eek out a mix via verbal and emailed direction, thanks to the crew of surrogate ears on the other side. Letters From Exile is material written from a certain space, in a certain place. I felt the need to discuss the underlying socio-political, cultural paradigm as I saw it. I haven't been able to watch the news too much recently, so I'm not hip on everything going on. But inspiration of this sort is a kind of news in and of itself, and often times contains an urgency that precedes what happens. I couldn't imagine it not being relevant. Messages like these I imagine find their audience, or their audience finds them, like water seeking its level."