It's been ten years since the Fugees dominated thecharts with their groundbreaking blend of socially conscious rap, R&B and reggae, The Score. But in the world of pop music -- particularly hip-hop -- a decade might as well be a millennium, so when word came last year that Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Pras were reuniting, one had to wonder if today's music fans would care. The trio's first comeback single, "Take It Easy," has seen limited success, but last night at Los Angeles' famed intersection of Hollywood and Vine, the group proved -- at least for one night -- that hell, yeah, the Fugees still matter.
Performing in front of 8,000 fevered fans in a free outdoor show put on by Verizon Wireless to kick off Grammy week, the mysterious trio wound back the clock. "Can you believe it, we in Hollywood?" said Jean, who served as host for most of the seventy-five-minute set. "This is history!"
Frequently stopping and restarting songs, the Fugees were more than a bit rusty, and, for the frontman of a reunited group, Jean sure spent a lot of time onstage alone. But they made up for their shortcomings with enthusiasm, and with a commodity too often missing from pop music: something to say.
During Jean's solo single, "911," the MC drew a loud ovation when he shouted, "Bush don't care about Iraq, he care about the oil!" And during "Take It Easy," he again name-checked the president: "George Bush, you better take it easy."
During an impassioned monologue, Hill addressed many of the rumors that surrounded her lengthy absence from the music scene. "I'm a black woman who's super-smart, can't be bought, can't be bribed," she said, eliciting wild roars from the audience. "If that's the definition of crazy, then I'm craaazy."
The Fugees mixed old and new songs, emphasizing the reggae vibe that's often distinguished their songs from the rest of the hip-hop world, as well as material from their individual projects. Predictably, group favorites like "Killing Me Softly With His Song," "Ready or Not" and "Fu-Gee-La" evoked the loudest response. Other standouts included Pras' solo hit "Ghetto Supastar," a cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" and Jean's "We Trying to Stay Alive."
Just by taking the stage the Fugees proved many naysayers wrong, but does this high-profile outing mean that the reunion album will see the light of day soon? Late in the set, Jean offered only these promising words, "As we proceed, we are the Fugees."