Knowing The Score on The Fugees 20 Years Later

I had to listen to the album one more time before I wrote this, to make sure I wasn’t tripping, being too harsh or “hating” as people void of constructive criticism would say.

There was a time when a trio of 2 men and 1 woman was the most sought out combination in hip-hop. However, time has proven that any formula of that kind can only be mildly successful.

One group reached beyond mild success. They were The Fugees. A group that even critics counted out when they went by the sub-name “Tranzlator Crew”. Mona Lisa from the “Blunted on Reality” album kept them afloat enough for people to want another album. That album was “The Score”. Definitely a project of better beats, better rhymes and better concepts.

This is the talk I remember about The Fugees in 1996. The Girl is Dope, The Producer rapper is cool and that tall dude SUCKS!

It’s even addressed on the album that everyone felt Lauryn Hill should leave Clef and Pras and pursue a solo career. This album goes on to sell 6 Million copies in the US. I would like to believe that Fu-Gee-La, Ready or Not and Cowboys were the primary reason, but in all honesty, I think we all know Lauryn’s Killing Me Softly remake as well as the remake of “No Woman, No Cry” is what brought in the bulk of the sales and the accolades for The Score. Not that “Fu-Gee-La” wasn’t a big record of 1996 cause it really was, but looking back on the year 1996 was that song better than lead singles from Pac, Nas, Busta Rhymes, Lil Kim and Outkast? Don’t forget Jay-Z, The Roots and Redman also had big years then as well. Competition was really stiff lyrically and it’s hard to deny the push for Lauryn to go solo having impact on this album looking back. None of those rap moments  were bigger than Lauryn’s singing voice in 1996 though. Then add to us making the connection of her being “The Girl from Sister Act 2” and you couldn’t script a more perfect storm for mainstream success.

Is this album still a classic? I’m not really sure I can say yes. To be honest, this album is simply “What the 90’s sounded like sometimes”. The sound is vintage, but that doesn’t make it classic. Let’s look at what happens after the album drops and achieves success.

The group breaks and seemingly to this day can’t stand each other
It lead to a great solo career for Wyclef
A great album for Lauryn Hill
Pras made a hit record with Mya and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Wyclef would ish on the Legend Diamond D about sampling and ruin their relationship.

As far as musical impact, it spawned City High, but what does that really mean? Not picking on City High, but that was Wyclef’s “Fugees 2.0” and it failed.

Can we really call an album classic that has 4 versions of the lead single on it? None of the versions being better than the original?

All the members are alive and it doesn’t look like they want to be around each other in any real capacity. The personal feelings outweigh the mainstream success. It’s sad but true and we got to deal with it.

In tactful summary, The Score is a time capsule album. It had very great moments, but we can’t deny Clef, Pras and Lauryn all did WAY BETTER apart than together and maybe that was their real problem. Some situations just can’t be forced even when success hits. Here we are 20 years later and not only are the 3 of them not making music consistently, but nobody is clamoring to “hear that Fugees sound again” either. They weren’t the voice of a coast, people or genre. The envelope wasn’t pushed that far musically and in the end, the original songs didn’t perform better than the remakes.

In the spirit of Grammy night…One could argue, “The Score” beating “All Eyez on Me” for Best Rap Album is the equivalent to “The Heist” beating “Good Kid M.A.A.D City”. Sure commercially the award is deserved, but where does it sit in the Halls of Hip-Hop?

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