Throwback Thursday: Fugees 'The Score'

Twenty years since its release, we revisit Fugees seminal second album 'The Score'.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 12th Feb 2016

Images: Fugees

Rolling off the back of a entirely underrated album in Blunted on Reality, Fugees flipped hip hop ideals on their head with their follow up The Score. It averted the gaze of gangsta rap and merged an inking of a myriad of genres including hip hop, soul, reggae and world music into a revolutionary package.

While the masses were fish hooked on the likes of Snoop Dogg slinging G-funk on The Doggfather or Jay Z's debut cut Reasonable Doubt (released four months after The Score) and hip hop was overshadowed by the Biggie and Tupac rivalry, Fugees provided an alternative that grew in legend due to its polarised approach.

20 years on and we're increasingly attuned to alternative hip hop, as the genre's developed with instrumentation, sample techniques and subject matter in a completely different social climate - more notably realigning to the socio-political themes of the black community in America and with the development of urban off-shoots in the UK.

While Fugees still embraced a social and political narrative, although from an entirely different angle, it can be argued that they were the catalyst to helping hip hop branching its subject matter and vision to where it stands today; trying to bringing the sound back from it's obsession with ignorance.

It goes without saying that despite the records stalled commercial success in its infancy, The Score is a timeless piece of artistry that demonstrates Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras in their finest hour - even counting The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill

From the get-go the album conjures up irresistible wordplay, hunched over hyper-slick rhythms and sampling that was discerning and wide in range: featuring slices like 'Planet Rock' by Afrika Bambaataa and Erik B & Rakim's 'My Melody' on the Diamond D produced 'The Score'. 

Lauryn Hill's input is highlighted as one of the most influential female rap contributions. At only 21 years old she cut equally against Wyclef Jean's quick-fire verses while Pras solidified the foundations with lyrical quip. 

Hill and Wyclef sparked a relationship that would eventually lead to the band's demise, but what they laid down in two short years proved entirely influential. 

Hills cover of Roberta Flack's 'Killing Me Softy' is one of the most revered in popular music. Her sweet like honey lyrics lured in the mainstream listener, then drew fire in their faces with killer verses that rubbed intellectually against the grain.

Her Carlos Santana referencing instalment on 'Zealots' ranks highest. It slalomed between religious and scientific metaphors taking hits at cliched MC's with rhymes like "Whether jew or gentile, I rank top percentile/Many styles more powerful than gamma rays".

Wyclef Jean was equally accomplished in sculpting and delivering his lyrical artillery, flipping the switch from cinematic and topical references to social patter as swiftly as he zipped through, "I kick a rhyme drinkin' moonshine/ I pour a sip on the concrete for the deceased" on 'Ready Or Not' to mark the mourning of his subjects. 

Pragmatically 'Ready Or Not' is symbolic of everything that's great about the album. From Hill's buttery interludes to the sampling of Enya's Boadicea - which deviated from the genre's penchant for sampling soul and jazz joints - right through to their employment of Delfonic's 'Ready or Not'. The Fugees flexed that they could pull the raw materials from anything and make a completely different proposition.

They even likened gangsta rap to the American prohibition criminals to send their complex message. Hill lands a knockout punch on the song mid-way with "So while you're imitating Al Capone/I'll be capturing your rhymes like Nina Simone".

Ultimately the song is the de facto capital of the album with the 'Ready or Not' manifesto hurling up a hurricane 'diss' towards gangsta rap and flummoxing the bitch, money mercenaries.

Wherever your opinions lie, The Score spawned an endless question as to where the group could have taken this project had they not broken up after this album. Maybe it was fate, for their disbandment meant their legend was tied to an album that helped pave hip hop's way to the mainstream during one of its darkest hours.  

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