.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/78f2b8624f31f7d6f215f69dbcdee13ceaad58a3.jpg The Score

Fugees

The Score

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3 0
March 21, 1996

The Fugees are a Neapolitan treat, sweet in three layers: rhyme, sample and groove. On its second album, the hip-hop threesome cops a grim veneer but escapes gangsta clichés by playing around with the formulas. Witticisms like singer and rapper Lauryn "L" Hill's description of a mean lover — "He tried to burn me like a perm" — or rapper and guitarist Clef's mix of sermonizing and wigging out between songs don't so much lighten The Score's mood as humanize it, lifting the Fugees out of the stereotypes they court and lending depth to their inner-city sketches.

Hill, Clef and toasting rapper Pras converse in French, creole and English, proclaiming, insinuating and stretching meaning. The group's sampling style flows from a distinctive attitude toward cover versions. Not only do the Fugees dip into classics like "I Only Have Eyes for You," they fully reshape Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" and Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" to accommodate their own stories. The Marley ballad becomes a tribute to the trench towns of Brooklyn, N.Y., and New Jersey and the Flack song a comical boast about the crew's skills. Beneath these reinventions cook rhythms that recall trip-hop's origins in rap's own outer encampments — the ground occupied by De La Soul (to whom the Fugees offer props) and the Jungle Brothers.

But Neapolitan is also a term that can mean "new city." The Fugees manifest that flavor in their portrait of the neighborhood as ever changing, slightly fantastic and brimming with inspiration. "Cowboys" rides the range with ghetto dudes who yodel as skillfully as they shoot. "Manifest" imagines Judas Iscariot as a homeboy stuck between a promise and a threat. And "The Beast" reworks that tired cliché about New York as a many-legged monster into a cool dose of dread that could give Dr. Dre a scare.

The Fugees' roots in reggae give them a solid base in song and a basic philosophy that's richer than the money-or-nothing ethic that dulls much of rap these days. Without being sanctimonious, The Score paints the ghetto as a mythical landscape, one that can inspire pride as well as sorrow. Like Wu-Tang Clan, the Fugees view the world as their movie, complete with stunts and special effects. But one is more likely to get this crew's jokes.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Vicious”

    Lou Reed | 1972

    Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com