Listening to the Fugees Greatest Hits, it seems a damn shame that the trio only released a handful of albums before lead members and lovers Wyclef and Lauryn Hill had their much-publicised fall out. Nonetheless, for a few years in the mid 90s The Fugees captured the ears and hearts of an entire generation of urban youths with their effortlessly stylish and seductively mainstream mix of lilting retro-R&B rhythms and lyrical ragga-inflected vocal raps. The opening oh-so-laid back ditty "Fu-Gee-La" segues seamlessly into their slow-skank take on Bob Marley's classic "No Woman, No Cry". Of course, part of the Fugees appeal lies precisely in their ability to make cover versions their own."Killing Me Softly with his Song" is transformed from a wistful meditation on infatuation into an aching R&B slow jam. And who can ever forget the smile inducing, instant head-nodding and hip-shaking brilliance of the anthemic "Ready or Not" (featuring "Boadecia" by Enya) where Lauryn's soulful call and Wyclef's lyrical rap response provided the blueprint for major pop crossover success?
However, as the dazzling lyrical interplay and step up to the mic emcee skillz on "The Score", "How Many Mics" and "Cowboys" remind us, the Fugees were never entirely comfortable with their commercial appeal. The bonus semi-acoustic live versions of "Killing Me" and "The Score" capture a band struggling to remain free from bling bling posturing.The funk soaked "Vocab" and Lauryn's own R&B ode "Sweetest Thing" suggest the distinct paths each member would take after the group's implosion.
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