Blow the dust off, give it a spin and you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
Angus Taylor 2007
In 1996 the Fugees, after the limited but respectable sales of their debut Blunted On Reality, released sophomore effort The Score to worldwide acclaim. It wasn’t long before their well-balanced blend of hip hop, pop, roots and R&B established Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras as global stars.
It begins inauspiciously with “Red Intro”, building with the laid-back “How Many Mics”, before bringing out the big pop guns and Lauryn’s mature yet spirited voice for “Ready Or Not”. Although the “Killing Me Softly” cover was, and remains, the record’s biggest hit, the highlight is undoubtedly "Fugee La". Combining awesome Salaam Remi production with exuberant turns by Wyclef and Hill - including her incredible eerie laughter at the midway point – it is the album’s centre.
“Family Business” is classic moody mid-nineties hip hop, “The Mask” utilizes smooth fretless bass and muted trumpet, and “No Woman No Cry” avoids becoming too R&B with the aid of acoustic guitar that can be likened to Ben Harper. The album ends with some interesting but inferior remixes and “Mista Mista” - an unsubtle, sentimental plea to a junkie to kick the habit. “Needle and The Damage Done” it ain’t.
The Fugees wear their influences on their sleeves both musically and lyrically, name-checking Santana and Bob Marley, artists who, like them, took their culture mainstream. At a time when communication and travel were going global, this was the ultimate eclectic post-modernist album - of Chinese food, cognac, Westerns, Kung Fu, sitars and reggae. No wonder it went multi-platinum, leaving its creators with the world at their feet.
Sadly, it was not to last. The group split and whilst Hill struggled with personal issues, Wyclef undertook a frenzy of inappropriate collaborations (Brian Harvey??) leaving this record as their last testament for posterity. Sure, it doesn’t sound quite as innovative as it did then, but blow the dust off, give it a spin and you’ll find plenty to enjoy.