Fugees

  • Hip-hop/reggae group formed in 1992 from South Orange New Jersey. Members of the group were Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Pras Michel. All three members contributed to songwriting, and each was a vocalist for the group, with Jean contributing guitars.
  • Hill grew up in a house filled with music – she took violin lessons, sang in gospel choir and performed at an amateur night at the Apollo Theater. When Hill was a freshman in high school, upperclassman Michel approached her about forming a vocal group, as he had heard of her talent from mutual friends. Another young woman joined, and they named themselves Tyme. In 1990, the other woman left, and Michel’s cousin Jean joined the group, renaming themselves Tranzlator Crew. Jean was born in Haiti and he immigrated to New York when he was 9 years old.
  • A demo tape of the group landed at a record company known for signing hip-hop and rap artists, and in 1993 they were signed to a record deal. The name of the trio was changed to Fugees – a derogatory term used to refer to Haitian-American refugees. In 1994, they released their debut album – Blunted On Reality. The songs featured a hip-hop drive beat with each vocalist trading verses.  Initially, it only sold 12,000 copies, and the single Nappy Heads made it to #49 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • Disappointed by the debut, the record company decided to support them with a second album, giving them a $135,000 advance, full artistic control and more production control. The result was The Score. Instead of just a hip-hop beat, the album hinted of jazz, reggae and R&B. Released in 1996, it became one of the most successful hip-hop albums of all time. It topped the Billboard album chart and was certified 6x platinum. It also topped charts in 8 international markets, and was in the top 5 of many others. The Fugees won a Grammy award for Best Rap Album for The Score. Rolling Stone puts it at #134 on their Greatest Albums of All Time list.
  • The smash hit from The Score was a remake of the Roberta Flack classic Killing Me Softly. It topped 2 Billboard charts and was #1 on 25 International charts. The song won a Grammy award for Best R&B Performance and the video won an MTV award for Best R&B Video. Other successful singles from the album were Fu-Gee-La (#29 on the Hot 100, #1 on the Hot Dance Singles chart), Ready or Not (#22 on the R&B Chart, #1 in the UK and top 10 on 15 other International charts), and a cover of the Bob Marley reggae classic, No Woman No Cry (#2 in the UK).
  • Following the success of The Score, each member of the trio began solo efforts. Hill’s debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill went on to outsell The Score, winning 5 Grammy awards and it was included by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry. Jean began producing for other artists and releasing albums (9 as of this writing). Michel released 2 solo albums and began a career in film production.
  • The group reunited for a concert in 2004, and they opened the 2005 BET Music Awards with a 12-minute set. Later that year, they performed on tour in Europe for a month, to mixed reviews. They also released a single – Take It Easy reached #40 on the R&B chart, and it was panned by the critics. Talk of a new album was scuttled when in 2007, Michel and Jean both publicly dismissed it, stating that they could not stand to work with Hill again.
  • Too bad – The Score was an album that took hip-hop to the mainstream. I liked the album, since it was an alternative to the hard core gangsta rap that was prevalent at the time. Here’s Fugees performing Killing Me Softly on the UK music program Later…With Jools Holland.

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