The Fugees were a critically-acclaimed New Jersey hip hop group that rose to fame in the mid-1990s, whose repertoire included elements of soul and Caribbean music, particularly reggae. The members of the group are rapper/singer/producer Wyclef Jean, rapper/singer Lauryn Hill, and rapper Pras Michel. Deriving their name from the term refugee, Jean and Michel are Haitian Americans, while Hill is African American. The group recorded two albums — one of which, The Score (1996), was a multi-platinum and Grammy-winning success — before disbanding in 1997. Hill and Jean each went on to successful solo recording careers; Michel focused on soundtrack recordings and acting, though he found commercial success with his song “Ghetto Supastar”.
The trio released their first LP, Blunted on Reality, in 1994. The album spawned two underground hits, “Nappy Heads (Mona Lisa)” and “Vocab”, but failed to live up to the reputation of the group’s live shows and gained little mainstream attention.
The Score became one of the biggest hits of 1996 and one of the best-selling hip hop albums of all time. The Fugees gained attention for their cover versions of old favorites, with the group’s reinterpretations of “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley & the Wailers and “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack, the latter being their biggest pop hit. The album also included a re-interpretation of The Delfonics’ “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love)” in their hit single, “Ready or Not”, which featured a prominent sample of Enya’s Boadicea without the singer’s permission. This prompted a lawsuit resulting in a settlement where Enya was given credit and royalties for her sample. The Fugees have continuously thanked and praised Enya for her deep understanding of the situation, for example in the liner notes for The Score. The Fugees won two 1997 Grammy Awards with The Score (Best Rap Album) and “Killing Me Softly” (Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group).
The Fugees on the cover of Rolling Stone.
In 1997, the Fugees all began solo projects: Hill started work on her critically acclaimed The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; Jean began producing for a number of artists (including Canibus, Destiny’s Child and Carlos Santana) and recorded his debut album The Carnival; Michel, with Mya and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, recorded the single “Ghetto Supastar” for the soundtrack to the Warren Beatty/Halle Berry film Bulworth.
Refugee Camp, while a name sometimes credited to the trio, also refers to a number of artists affiliated with them, and particularly Jean. John Forté was an early member, rapping and drum programming on two of The Score’s tracks, and was currently serving a 14-year prison sentence for cocaine trafficking. His sentence was commuted in November of 2008 by President George Bush.
The three Fugees reunited and performed on September 18, 2004 at the concert in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn featured in the film Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, headlining a star-studded bill that included Kanye West, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Talib Kweli, Common, Big Daddy Kane, Dead Prez, Cody ChestnuTT and John Legend. Their performance received mostly positive reviews, many of which praised Hill‘s near a cappella rendition of “Killing Me Softly with His Song”.
The Fugees would make their first televised appearance in almost ten years at BET’s 2005 Music Awards on 28 June, opening the show with a twelve minute set. With a new album announced to be in the works, one track, “Take It Easy”, was leaked online and eventually released as an Internet single on September 27, 2005. It peaked at #40 on the Billboard R&B Chart and was met with poor reviews, noting its radical departure from the Fugees‘ sound.
In 2005, the Fugees embarked on a European tour – their first together since 1997 – from November 30 to December 20, playing in Finland, Austria, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, England, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Slovakia. The tour received mixed reviews. On February 6, 2006, the group reunited for a free show in Hollywood, with tickets given away to about 8,000 fans by local radio stations. Later that month, a new track called “Foxy” leaked, a song dubbed the “REAL return of the Fugees” by several online MP3 blogs. Dave Chappelle, the Fugees and the rest of the film’s line-up also toured several cities in February and March, under the moniker Block Party All-Stars featuring Dave Chappelle, in promotion of the film’s release.
However, following the reunion tour, the album that was said to be in the works did not materialize and was postponed indefinitely as relationships between band members apparently deteriorated. During an interview with SOHH.com, Michel confirmed that the group was “straight dead”. He indicated this was due to Hill having “some things she needs to deal with.” In August 2007, he reiterated this, stating, “Before I work with Lauryn Hill again, you will have a better chance of seeing Osama Bin Laden and [George W.] Bush in Starbucks having a latte, discussing foreign policies, before there will be a Fugees reunion […] At this point I really think it will take an act of God to change her, because she is that far out there.” On March 4, 2008, Jean admitted on the Howard Stern Show that he believed that Hill suffered from bipolar disorder and stated that “she needs meds”.
Sources: Wikipedia, Tinypic, YouTube
Check out their video below: Fugees – “Killing Me Softly”