Remember the famous hip-hop cover rendition of “Killing Me Softly with His Song”? It was Lauryn Hill’s breakout song when she was a 20-year-old lead singer with the Fugees. Raw, simple, and elegant, the magnificent cover of Roberta Flack’s original hit emerged as a classic in its own right in the mid-1990s as one of the tracks in The Fugees’ second and final studio outing The Score. In this post, we look back at the famous trio that emerged to dominate the hip-hop scene only to quickly burn and crash after 1996 in our famous musicians and their relationships series.
Lauryn Hill met Pras Michel at Columbia High School in New Jersey and formed the trip called Tyme with a mutual friend Marcy Harriell. After Harriell’s departure, Pras’ cousin, Wyclef Jean joined the band. They changed their name to Fugees, taken from a word used to derogatorily refer to Haitian-American refugees. Their first album, Blunted on Reality, gained little mainstream attention. But they continued the musical quality of their first album in The Score, which became the biggest hit album of all time and contained several hits of 1996. The Fugees won two Grammy Awards in 1997 for their album and hit “Killing Me Softly”. However, after the success of The Score, the Fugees never came up with another album together. Just as they seemed to have conjured out of the ether, they dissipated into thin air after a few years of solo efforts.
Did Relationship Break Up the Fugees?
Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean had an explosive affair while Jean was married The affair of these two strong personalities definitely contributed to the breakup of this short-lived but iconic group. Even before The Score was completed, Hill had decided to leave the band. In a 2014 Billboard Interview, Michel recounted Hill calling him to record her hook and lay the reference for ‘Ready or Not’ and left after the recording.
Although her departure was temporary, the public would learn of her relationship with Jean. In the album tour of 1997, Hill started seeing Bob Marley’s son Rohan Marley and became pregnant. Her pregnancy brought up confusion after the paternity of the child. Jean in an interview in 2012, said that Hill had lied to him about the paternity of her child and that was when things hit the breaking point. The Haitian-born artist admitted in the New York Post that it was this betrayal that led to the break up of The Fugees. He added that the incident killed something between them and she could no longer be his muse.
Did Success End the Fugees?
Lauryn Hill, being the lead singer of the group, was recognized as a true start. However, Jean was a musical jack-of-all-trades. He raps, sings, plays both the keyboard and the guitar. Both he and Hill have production and writing credits for The Score. But this may seem unfair to Michel who was the album’s sole executive producer. He was the one who suggested to the group to cover ‘Killing Me Softly with His Song’ and was the one who tried to keep the volatile group from toppling.
The Fugees Spinoffs
Jean had his own solo album after The Fugees called The Carnival in 1997. However, both Hill and Michel were co-executive producers and Hill also contributed to the vocals and songwriting. Jean helped Michel produce a solo album Ghetto Supastar, which also became a spinoff of Fugees success. Although Michel had blamed Jean for wrecking The Fugees.
Lauryn Hill also had her solo album a masterpiece titled The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The album came out in 1998 and sold 422,000 copies in the first week. It eventually eclipsed the success of The Score, going platinum, and was the first hip-hop release to win the Album of the Year at the Grammy. Hill was nominated for 10 Grammy awards and became the first female artist to win five Grammys in one night. In one swoop, she got back at Jean and made her own name without being his side girl.
The Fugees embarked on a European tour in late 2005 and it received mixed reviews. They reunited again for a free show in Hollywood in 2006. But a reunion album in the works did not materialize and was postponed indefinitely as relationships between the trio deteriorated. Michel brushed off any possibility of working with Hill again, while Jean remarked that Hill needs help from a psychiatrist.
Muses are an inspiration to some of the best musical works and this was no exception for the Fugees. Despite the tumultuous relationship between Jean and Hill, they produced hits together still remembered today.
If you are inspired by The Fugees’ music and success, head on down to Ritmo Music Studio to learn a musical instrument or jam with your friends.