90s score: 6/10
2020 score: 9/10
When looking back at the 90s music scene, it is easy to spot the pivotal milestones and growth. The decade broke all kind of the rules set up decades earlier in so many genres, and that stripped-down, raw musical approach was injected everywhere (including hip-hop). In the mid-90s, The Fugees’ released their second record, The Score, and it blew the world open.
It may come as a surprise to know that I was not one of those blown away the Fugees’ second album. I loved single “Killing Me Softly,” but beyond that, I couldn’t get into Alternative Hip-Hop. The Fugees, I deemed, were to become another one-hit-wonder, but my tastes have grown since then, and The Score has become one of my favourite albums.
First, let’s address the production; this is such a smooth and well-produced album, and considering the Fugees themselves did most of it, it’s very impressive. The samples and beats feel calm, warm, and lazy (in a good way). Every note, track and word moves into each other with a sense of chill and ease that turns the playthrough into a journey. The transition from the slow groove “Ready or Not” to, my personal favourite track, “Zealots” is a fantastic example of how well the record is set up. This is likely due to the approach in which the group took to writing music, which rapper Wyclef Jean described as a “relaxed pace [that was done] calmly, almost unconsciously. There wasn’t any pressure – it was like ‘let’s make some music,’ and it just started forming into something amazing.”
Now, the instrumentation and vocals. Throughout the record, every member shines brightly. Vocals from both Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel play off each other nicely, and Lauren Hill’s voice always cuts through with such emphasis it draws the listener’s focus in further. “The Beast” is another stand out track that has a bumping to the instrumentation, the slow bass and steady drums make you glide through the lyrics with zeal, and the joking conversation at the end adds a nice contrast/break to the beat before transitioning back into “Fu-Gee-La.”
The Score is a feel-good hip-hop record, and it was different than what anyone was doing at the time, and still stands out as a take on hip-hop that I feel has yet to be outdone. Looking back now, I can’t fathom why I was so reluctant when the album first dropped, but damn, this record has made its way into my regular rotation. The group all began solo projects in 1997 after the release of this album, and though each one has achieved so much, I still think this record shows off how when talented people collaborate and create on the same wavelength, beautiful things happen.
Written by Danielle Kenedy
Edited by Dominic Abate