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Rap Biographies: The Fugees

The Fugees
The Fugees, popular during the mid-1990s, repertoire includes primarily hip hop, with elements of soul, and Caribbean music (particularly reggae). Deriving their name from the term "refugee", the group is noted for the integration of soul and reggae into their work, and recorded two albums-one of which, The Score, was a multi-platinum and Grammy-winning success.

The Fugees are Wyclef "Clef" Jean - who happens to be the Fugees' proud, Haitian-blooded, rhyme-sayin' guitar hero; Lauryn "L" Hill - a sweet sounding, African-American rapstress whose voice can also carry blissful, strong soul singing - and Prakazrel "Pras" Michel - an amazing verbal acrobat, capable of leaping tall buildings with a single, hip hop tinged syllable.

The story, basically, starts off like this: Pras and Lauryn went to the same high school, Pras and Lauryn formed a group and commenced to battling fools left and right. Cousin Clef joined the fold, the crew battled fools from high school to high school, and the winner takes everything. Six or so odd years later, the Fugees are in the studio, cutting an album. (The name, "Fugees" is a symbol for the refuge that we each seek in our minds; there's also the fact that two of the up members are of Haitian descent; since there are so many displaced Haitians who have looked to the United States for political and social asylum, the term "refugee" is sometimes used as a derogatory term for Haitians in general. Either way, the group wears its moniker as a badge of honor.)

Before Blunted On Reality, the members of this New Jersey-based, lyric-crafting posse were just three kids who worked, scratched and saved, with a feverish determination, dreaming of the opportunity to one day shock the house till the break of dawn. The trio released their first LP, Blunted on Reality that spawned underground hits, but it failed to live up the expectations of fans who attended their concerts. The Salaam Remi re-mix of "Nappy Heads" became a chart-topping, radio-played hit that helped to sprinkle Fugees logic, in a more conventional way, upon the dancing souls of rap land who weren't yet ready for their highly skilled sonic refinement. In the meantime, the Fugees toured the globe, perfecting their skills while splashing their ragga-rock & roll flavored, poetic gospel into the minds of new apostles, laying the ground work for their latest album, The Score.

Despite the relative failure of their first album, The Score became one of the biggest hits of 1996. The Fugees were known for their unusual choice of covers and sampling sources on both albums. The Score, for example, included covers of "No Woman No Cry" (Bob Marley & the Wailers) and "Killing Me Softly (With His Song)" (Roberta Flack), which was their biggest pop hit. The majestic ditties of The Score possess an electric personality: joints like singles that became popular are firm specimens of rhythm commanding long lasting respect, stretching across a spectrum of black musical genres - from revolutionary rap to super slick soul to the easy goin' chassis of reggae.

During 1997, the crew played on the Smokin' Grooves tour, and took time out while Hill gave birth to a child and Clef issued a solo album, The Carnival Featuring the Refugee Allstars. In 1998 Hill released her smash record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and in 2000 Clef released his second solo disc, The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book. Also Jean began producing for a number of artists and recorded his debut album. Michel recorded the soundtrack to the film Bulworth. After each member found success in other ventures, the Fugees failed to reform. Though the Fugees remained tight-lipped about the exact reasons, most fans believed that a serious personality conflict between Hill and Jean contributed to the breakup following The Score.

But nevertheless the three Fugees reunited & performed in 2004. On June 2005, they opened the BET awards with a surprise performance featuring several of their hit songs. They are now planning to do another album together. One track, "Take It Easy," peaked at #40 on the Billboard R&B Charts. Toward the end of February 2006, a new track called "Foxy" leaked through an unknown source.

"At a Fugees show," boasts the sly tongued, b-boy representer Wyclef, "you could expect the next level. You might see me on the accordion, or the keyboards, you might see L grab a guitar, Pras grab a bass - it's just gonna be real. I think the Fugees have made a statement in hip hop and we don't get credit for it."

The Fugees translated an intriguing blend of jazz-rap, R&B, and reggae into huge success. With just as much intelligence as their jazz-rap forebears, the trio also worked with surprisingly straight-ahead R&B on the soulful "Killing Me Softly With His Song," sung by Lauryn Hill. Elsewhere, Clef and Pras sampled doo wop and covered Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry," giving the record familiarity for the commercial mainstream, but keeping it real with insightful commentary on their urban surroundings. The Score became one of the surprise hits of 1996, reaching number one on the pop charts and making the Fugees one of the most visible rap groups around the world.

After all is said and done, real rap fanatics must agree: the Fugees embody everything that hip hop is supposed to be while maintaining and exercising these elements in the form of a holy musical trinity. The Fugees are hip hop: proud, loud, original, sincere, funky fresh (on the beat side), dope (on the rhyme and lyrics side), fearless, beautiful and fearsome.
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