The Fugees‘ sophomore album The Score is multi-platinum, Grammy Award winning and legendary. The group was founded by Haitian rappers/producers/cousins Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel, and the cherry on top Miss Lauryn Hill, the New-Jersey native who provided bolshy bars and soulful vocals.
The title ‘The Score’ stemmed from the phrase ‘settling the score’ and related to the album’s aim – to give their audience an “up to date version of the Fugees sound“. This was the album’s desired result because there had been remixes released prior to the record that had caused confusion amongst their fans due to an inconsistency of sound and style, therefore the group wanted to clear up any perplexity.
One of the most acclaimed tracks on the record (and ever) is the anthem “Ready Or Not“. Over the panned and hummed vocals sampled from Enya’s “Boadicea”, Hill’s clean cut voice directly declares that she’s gonna find you and make you want her, a very accomplishable threat, with her blissful harmonies and powerful adlibs oozing feeling.
This outright banger doesn’t progress much in terms of texture but it really doesn’t need to. Deep bass drum beats announce the commencement of each bar while the high hat quavers tap to provide momentum. First to spit is Jean whose tone is powerful much like his bars which, unlike many rappers words, are full of depth and swagger but also a sophisticated and wise reflection.
Pras stated in a 1996 interview that “you can’t alter your music around to cater to the mainstream, we do our thing and if the mainstream people get into it big up“, this is notable in the record as though it is primarily a hip-hop one it also incorporates influences of soul and reggae.
An example of Caribbean influences is the Fugees take on Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry“, which is dedicated to ‘all the refugees worldwide’ in the intro. The tune is dominated by an acoustic guitar and heavy 90’s hip-hop beats, the contrasting timbre reflects the concept of remembering your journey of progression, which is summarized in the lyrics sung by Jean – “in this great future you can’t forget your past“.
The obvious links and references to Caribbean music throughout the record show the pride of culture and heritage that the group have. A pride that has also played a significant part in the musicians’ personal lives as Jean drove the Yele Haiti charity for over a decade and ran for Haiti’s president in 2010, while Hill founded an organization dedicated to the underprivileged urban youth.
I hadn’t come across “Mista Mista” until listening to The Score in depth for this review, but have concluded it’s an underrated and stomach wrenchingly beautiful song. There are hints of jazz with broken chords being played on the acoustic guitar in a Corrine Bailey Rae like manner, while Jean sings a chromatic melody in an effective contrast of voices that reflect the roles of the characters producing the dialogue quoted lyrically.
The soft airy tone on the lyrics “mista mista can I get five dollars so I can get something to eat” omits a sense of timidness from the beggar as he addresses someone assumed to have more status, then in reply – “hell no motherf**ker” is sung louder with emphasis on the words ‘hell’ and ‘f**ker’, mimicking the hostility between the two.
The Fugees created extremely edgy and infectious music that is also respectable and mature due to all three group members expertly performing bars and melodies that exhibit their intelligent and politically/socially aware characters. In my opinion The Score is a totally valid explanation for the Fugees gaining mammoth success and becoming a group that countless musicians still find inspiration in and bow down to today.
Purchase Fugees The Score on iTunes here, and stream it below.
Words by Hannah Rodríguez