The Fugees translated an intriguing blend of jazz-rap, R&B, and reggae into huge success during the mid-'90s, when the trio's sophomore album The Score hit number one on the pop charts and sold over five million copies. The trio formed in the late '80s in the New Jersey area, where Lauryn Hill and Prakazrel Michel ("Pras") attended a local high school and began working together. Michel's cousin Wyclef Jean ("Clef") joined the group (then called the Tranzlator Crew), and the trio signed to Ruffhouse/Columbia in 1993. After renaming themselves the Fugees (a term of derision, short for refugees, which was usually used to describe Haitian immigrants). Though the group's debut album, Blunted on Reality, was quite solid, it reflected a prevailing gangsta stance that may have been forced by the record label.
No matter how pigeonholed the Fugees may have sounded on their debut, the group had obviously asserted their control by the time of their second album, The Score. 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. 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. In turn, their solo success cast further doubt on another Fugees release. ~ John Bush