25 Years of ‘The Score’
This weekend marks 25 years since the Fugees released their sophomore LP, The Score, and if you thought that was the group’s first album, you’re forgiven. It came two years after the group’s debut album, Blunted on Reality, but that album sold a grand total of 12,000. In the grand scheme of popular music — especially in the mid-’90s — that can be rounded down to zero.
The Score improves on the group’s first outing, offering catchier lyrics and stronger melodies. Often times, the melodies are so good because they are familiar; for example, “Fu-Gee-La” samples from Teena Marie’s “Ooo La La La” while “Ready or Not” samples the Delfonics’ “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love)” and Enya’s “Boadicea.” Also, the album includes some of the best covers you will ever hear, with their version of “Killing Me Softly” becoming an instant classic.
The Score is generally not thought of as a “gangsta” album, and that is perhaps because its a melodic project that includes a lot of singing. However, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll quickly realize that there’s a whole lotta gun talk on the album. In between the gun talk, the group also touches on a variety of social issues, including poverty and police brutality.
If you’re anything like me, you probably assumed that this album’s singles were all chart-topping hits in the US, but as a matter of fact, only its first single, “Ready or Not,” made it onto the Billboard Hot 100. The others were popular on the radio, but due to Hot 100 rules at the time — which required a physical single release for chart eligibility — the rest of them never charted. However, all four singles were major hits across the world, with “Killing Me Softly” reaching No. 1 in the UK, France, Sweden, New Zealand and Germany, among others.
The Score would go on to sell over 17 million copies worldwide and win two Grammys in 1997 — for Best Rap Album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (for “Killing Me Softly”). Unfortunately, it would also become the group’s final album. According to Wyclef, who was married and having an affair with Lauryn Hill, the group broke up a paternity situation. They tried to reunite years later, but were unsuccessful.
In some ways, the fact that we never got another Fugees album makes The Score that much more special. The absence of a follow-up means you never have to hear about the group “falling off” or “playing it safe.” It leaves you wondering what could have been while being grateful that we got to experience that bit of magic.