photo & text by nacrowe
i first became aware of the FUGEES in the summer of 1996 when i saw an advertisement for their second album THE SCORE (COLUMBIA, 1996) on a billboard in KING'S CROSS STATION in the LONDON, which was the connecting hub we used to connect to a northern line that took us to HATFIELD where my relative lived at the time. my family spent a month with this relative in ENGLAND two years in a row and it is a period i look back on with much fondness. this was also the summer i discovered BRITPOP as OASIS and BLUR were at their commercial peak in ENGLAND during this period. just a great time to be a kid.
of course ironically the FUGEES are not from ENGLAND, they are from NEW JERSEY where my family spent the rest of the summer and his been based out of for the past few decades. famously FUGEES members LAURYN HILL, WYCLEF JEAN and PRAS are the children of HAITIAN immigrants and their sound is a mix of SOUL/R&B/HIP HOP with an empathetic lyrical bent towards the underprivileged and economically dispossessed. it makes total sense that they cover BOB MARLEY's "NO WOMAN, NO CRY" on THE SCORE given its similarly concern with the hardships of the underclass.
my recollection of THE SCORE was how massive tracks like "READY OR NOT," and "FU-GEE-LA" were during my middle school years in NIGERIA. i remember seeing those videos all the time on M-NET, which was a major television station out of SOUTH AFRICA. it is safe to say that THE SCORE was a big deal well across the AFRICAN DIASPORA, which is not the case with lots of popular AFRICAN-AMERICAN artists, interestingly. their iconic cover of "KILLING ME SOFTLY WITH HIS SONG," a NORMAN GIMBEL-penned tracked made famous by in 1972 by ROBERTA FLACK, was essentially a middle-school dance staple. which is really odd in retrospect given its obsessive lyrical bent.
look back at THE SCORE, it was the obvious starting point for the massively successful solo careers of LAURYN HILL and WYCLEF JEAN, but in terms of quality only THE MISEDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL (RUFFHOUSE, 1998) approaches its cultural impact. for me the standout tracks are undeniably "READY OR NOT" and "FU-GEE-LA" which standup to anything else from that era. still great songs.
THE SCORE is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are interested in socially conscious HIP HOP. they werent associated with the movement, but if you are a fan NATIVE TONGUES artists like A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, BLACK SHEEP, THE JUNGLE BROTHERS, SOULS OF MISCHIEF, THE PHARCYDE or DE LA SOUL, then the FUGEES are most certainly worthy of further investigation.
artwork by nicholas crowe
due to an open slot at MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC this past thursday, we were able to celebrate the musical heritage of NEW JERSEY with a special show available HERE.
the story of the garden state's musical legacy encompasses everything from jazz (SARAH VAUGHAN, FRANK SINATRA, COUNT BASIE) and pop (THE SHIRELLES, THE FOUR SEASONS, WHITNEY HOUSTON) to hip hop (THE FUGEES, NAUGHTY BY NATURE, ICE T, QUEEN LATIFAH) and indie rock (YO LA TENGO, THE FEELIES) as well as punk (THE MISFITS, THE BOUNCING SOULS), new wave (PATTI SMITH, DEBBIE HARRY) funk (PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC, KOOL & THE GANG), post-hardcore (SAVES THE DAY, THURSDAY) and even metal (DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, OVERKILL, MONSTER MAGNET).
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.