dispossessed people. The Score was something we had been working up to since we started back when.’
Back when was actually 1988, East Orange. New Jersey. a residential. sprawling. blue collar suburb of New York. The Fugees’ story begins while Lauryn and Pras (short for Prakazerel) were still attending Columbia High School.
Lauryn was schooled on doo wop and soul seven inchers, Stevie. Donny Hathaway, Eric B and Rakim. De La Soul. gospel. the Bmakdance soundtrack and The Eurythmics. Her father was a singer. her mother played piano and her uncle travelled with some of America’s jazz greats.
‘I grew up with music. literally.’ she says. ‘lt was always there. I was maybe thirteen and l was totally obsessed by rhythms and music. Duran Duran. corny stupid little raps — big girl MC. making shit up. Pras heard me singing in the halls and said he wanted to start a rap group.’
A first generation American. Pras is the son of
a Haitian church deacon who branded hip hop the devil’s music. By the age of fourteen. like every good teenager. Pras had rebelled and began trying to put together his own group.
By I988. the nucleus of The Fugees was complete. including Pras’s cousin Wyclef — a Haiti-born son of a Nazarene pastor. In 1993. they signed to Joe Nicolo’s Roughhouse imprint and in mid-I994 The Fugees Translator Crew. as they were then called. released their first album Blamed 0n Reality. to encouraging reviews.
‘That first album was good for what it was.’ says Lauryn. ‘We were young and hungry. and it has that energy. but The Score is more complex. It’s about the politics of the refugee but also all the emotional shit we went through during that transition — relationships. mothers and fathers. that kind of thing. Personally I received a big disappointment emotionally and that made the album have an edge.’
That disappointment was the breakup of a long term relationship. ‘Before then I thought I had it all figured out.’ says Lauryn. ‘l was
‘You won’t find anyone who loves
people more than me. I’ve been to
100 bar mitzvahs so don’t no one tell me I’m racist.’
nineteen. thought I knew everything. “Got problems with your man — fix it girl!" With my boyfriend I did some of the stupidest shit you could imagine. We‘d argue over the dumbest things . . . The Score is about the lives we lived and the people we know.’
There are those who accuse The Fugees of presenting a sanitised Uncle Tom version of the ghetto life. ‘Listen to the album’s message — sanitised isn’t the word I’d use.’ says Lauryn dismissively. ‘lt’s not alternative or contrived either. It’s the truth and we’re going to take it to the people.‘
As the successful stateside Smokin’ Grooves package tour proved earlier this year. there is
the Fugees: ‘We’re a unit and only God has the power to break us’
THE FUGEES FEATURE
now an alternative to the tried and tested formula of two turntables and a microphone. Backed by a live band. The Fugees jam it on. often rifﬁng on into the night if the mood takes them.
‘Live is what we’re really about.’ says Clef. ‘Come to a Fugees show and you get a band playing real music. The shows are about celebration, getting back to the feeling of spiritual celebration like Bob Marley.
‘Roots. rap and reggae. that’s what The Fugees are about. American. Jamaican. Haitian sounds we’re just one big Caribbean stew.’
This eclectic approach illustrates that hip hop — music that had become diluted by forensic ghetto cliche’s — has rediscovered a sophisticated agenda that has more in common with Marvin, Marley and Sly than the crack den and the drive- by. ‘This is a powerful collective with a powerful message,’ says Lauryn emphatically. ‘I do things for the collective. not for Lauryn Hill and I wouldn’t be nothing without Clefand Pras. But I also know that people try and split the collective and. because we’re strong and we’re touched by the light. the vampires are out to get us.’
‘No matter what. we’re a unit and only God has the power to break us.’ says Pras. cracking a rare smile. ‘We’ll keep it going till that time comes . . . if it comes.’
The F ugees are at Barrow/and, Glasgow on Tue 22 Oct.
The List 18-3l Oct 19969