The Fugees were a sensation when they first arrived on the hip-hop scene in the early 1990s. Comprised of Lauryn Hill, Michel Pras and Wyclef Jean, the trio are often considered one of the most impactful alternative hip-hop groups of all time.
Formed in Maplewood, New Jersey, where Hill and Pras went to high school, Pras suggested that his cousin, Wyclef Jean, become part of the group, which initially began as a band. Originally performing as The Tranzlator Crew, the band included Johnny Wise on drums, Ti Bass on guitar, and DJ Leon.
In 1993, having played concerts and built a buzz locally in both New Jersey and New York, the group signed with the label Ruffhouse. Ready to record their debut album but feeling like The Tranzlator Crew would be hard to market, the group ended up changing their name to The Fugees, a diminutive of The Refugees.
The Fugees only released two studio albums. However, their second project, The Score, was a genre-defining record that profoundly impacted the culture. Lauryn Hill, the trio’s frontwoman, proceeded to do great things. However, by the turn of the millennium, the collective and its members were nowhere to be seen. Below, you can find out the heights the group reached and why they eventually parted ways.
How successful were The Fugees?
After signing with Ruffhouse Records in 1993, the collective began working on their first body of work. The crew’s 1994 debut album, Blunted on Reality, did not perform well commercially, and all the members have said in hindsight that they were still finding themselves creatively at the time of its release. The album’s content and sound were restricted by the producers according to the members, and it was not true to them in any way.
Blunted Reality was received well by critics but not by the public. It performed better in Europe than in the US and managed to receive a Silver certification in the UK and a Goold certification in France. The single ‘Nappy Heads’ peaked at number 49 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, the group’s second album put them on the map.
Going back to the drawing board, The Fugees then recorded The Score. The 1996 album was a global hit and is still loved by many. With songs such as ‘No Woman No Cry’ and ‘Killing Me Softly’, The Score debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and number two on the UK Albums Chart. One of the most popular songs of the album, however, is ‘Ready Or Not’.
‘Ready Or Not’ interpolates ‘Ready or Not, Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love)’ by The Delfonics, and went to number one on the UK Singles Charts. Recorded at Ruffhouse Studios earlier that year, the track was certified Platinum in the UK and in the United States by the end of 1996. The Score is the world’s third highest-selling hip-hop album and has over 22million estimated worldwide album sales.
Who broke up The Fugees?
No one person broke up the Fugees. However, an affair between Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean led to heightened group tensions, ultimately leading to their demise. The two friends had dated in the early 1990s, but they continued to have relations after Jean married designer Marie Claudinette.
Hill got pregnant with her first son, Zion, in late 1996. However, she told Jean that her son was his despite knowing that the child’s biological father was Bob Marley’s son, Rohan. This fiasco took The Fugees to breaking point.
In his 2012 autobiography Purpose, Wyclef Jean explained the aftermath of the affair, unveiling, “In that moment, something died between us. I was married, and Lauryn and I were having an affair, but she led me to believe that the baby was mine, and I couldn’t forgive that.”
He continued, “She could no longer be my muse. Our love spell was broken.” Following this, the vocalist recorded her critically acclaimed debut project, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. However, she became highly reclusive and eventually took herself out of the limelight. She briefly reunited with The Fugees in 2004 but continued to harbour anger.
Have The Fugees reunited?
Last summer, The Fugees reunited for a surprise reunion for an impromptu Philadelphia performance. The get-together happened following Lauryn Hill’s live rendition of her 1998 debut album, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, at The Roots Festival.
In 2022, the trio were set to perform for the 25th anniversary of Lauryn Hill’s first project. However, the reunion was cancelled because member Pras Michel was found guilty of money laundering.
The Fugees also played at the Rooftop at Pier 17 venue in New York in 2021. However, the trio have sporadically performed their classics and haven’t insinuated that they will be working on music anytime soon. Hill hasn’t released any music since 1998, and Wyclef Jean has been pursuing a solo career ever since the collective’s dissipation at the turn of the millennium.
You can watch a video about the rise of fall of The Fugees in the video below.