February 8, 2006

The Fugees reunite for 8,000 fans in Hollywood

By Gary Jackson

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The Fugees, one of the
more enigmatic rap groups of the 1990s, brought a compelling
blend of street and gangsta rap, Third World influences and pop
sensibilities that helped rap gain acceptance in Middle
America. Their albums, 1994's "Blunted on Reality" and 1996's
multiplatinum "The Score," established the group as a force to
be reckoned with.

Amid reports of infighting during the height of the latter
album's success, the group took a hiatus in 1997; the official
excuse was the birth of group member Lauryn Hill's first child.
Hill scored hugely with 1998's multiple Grammy winner "The
Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," while Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel
achieved modest acclaim for their individual efforts.

Rumors abounded as to whether the Fugees would ever
reunite, but the prospects looked dim over the years. While the
Fugees officially regrouped at the 2005 BET Awards in Los
Angeles and later played several European rehearsal dates,
their show Monday in Hollywood was their first American concert
in 10 years.

A massive radio giveaway of 8,000 free tickets for the show
at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street
created a huge parking problem in a 12-block area leading into
Hollywood. But all traffic worries were quickly banished as
Wyclef opened with a 10-minute freestyle rap that included
several lines in French and Spanish. Hill, adorned in a
waist-length fur jacket, and Pras, in a peach summer jacket,
followed onstage. Backed by a potent band, the Fugees threw
themselves into the concert with abandon to roiling waves of
rock and hardcore beats.

A dizzying 20-minute "Zealot" was aimed squarely at fake
MC's, followed by "Ready or Not," "Fu-Gee-La" and their new
single "Take It Easy." A sing-along to the Spanish pop staple
"Guantanamera" and Mya's "Ghetto Superstar" were bridges to
their biggest hit, "Killing Me Softly."

The night clearly belonged to Wyclef, who jumped offstage
to engage the audience and climbed up a light tower to rap.
Although Hill is the most beloved of the three performers, it
is Wyclef's energy that fuels this ship. The Fugees have not
lost a step and are a welcome re-addition to a genre dominated
too long by gangsta rap.

Openers 3 on 3, a tepid Wyclef project influenced by the
Jackson 5 and New Edition, did not connect with the audience.
At one point, they asked, "Where's Cali at?" One crowd member
shouted, "We're hiding from you!"

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter