The Fugees was an American hip hop group who rose to fame in the early 1990s. Their repertoire included elements of hip hop, soul and Caribbean music, particularly reggae. The members of the group were rapper/singer/producer Wyclef Jean, rapper/singer/producer Lauryn Hill, and rapper/producer Pras Michel. Deriving their name from a shortening of the word "refugees", Jean and Michel are Haitian while Hill is American.
Lauryn Hill and Pras first met at Columbia High School, in Maplewood, New Jersey, New Jersey. Pras, Lauryn, and a mutual friend named Marcy formed a musical trio called Tyme; Pras' cousin, Wyclef Jean, joined the trio and Marcy left soon after in 1990. The moniker Tranzlator Crew refers to the name of their band at the time, which included Johnny Wise on drums, T Boss (Jerry) on bass guitar, and Leon (DJ). In 1993, after some gigs and recorded demos, the trio signed to Ruffhouse, distributed through Columbia Records. The trio's name was later changed to Fugees, which was purposely taken from a word often used derogatorily to refer to Haitian-Americans (refugee). Refugee Camp, while a name sometimes credited to the trio, also refers to a number of artists affiliated with them, and particularly Jean.
The trio soon changed musical direction, and released their first hip-hop LP, Blunted on Reality, in 1994 under the guidance of Kool and the Gang's producer Ronald Bell. Although the album did not contain as many lyrics with overtly political messages as songs from The Score, there were still political intentions. The album spawned the singles "Boof Baf", "Nappy Heads" and "Vocab", but gained little mainstream attention, despite earning props for its artistic quality and innovative use of samples.
The group’s second album The Score which was released in February 1996. The Score became one of the biggest hits of 1996 and one of the best-selling hip-hop albums of all time. The Fugees first gained attention for their cover versions of old favorites, with the group's reinterpretations of "No Woman No Cry" by Bob Marley & the Wailers and "Killing Me Softly with His Song" (first recorded by Lori Lieberman in 1971, remade by Roberta Flack in 1973), the latter being their biggest hit. The album also included a re-interpretation of The Delfonics' "Ready or Not Here I Come (Can't Hide From Love)" in their hit single, "Ready or Not", which featured a prominent sample of Enya's "Boadicea" without the singer's permission. This prompted a lawsuit resulting in a settlement where Enya was given credit and royalties for her sample. The Fugees have continuously thanked and praised Enya for her deep understanding of the situation, for example in the liner notes for The Score.
The Fugees won two 1997 Grammy Awards with The Score (Best Rap Album) and "Killing Me Softly" (Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group).
In 1997, the Fugees all began solo projects: Hill started work on her critically acclaimed The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; Jean began producing for a number of artists (including Canibus, Destiny's Child and Carlos Santana) and recorded his debut album The Carnival; Pras, with Mýa and Ol' Dirty Bastard, recorded the single "Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)" for the soundtrack to the Warren Beatty/Halle Berry film Bulworth. In early 1998, they reunited to shoot a music video for the song "Just Happy to Be Me" which appeared in the Sesame Street special Elmopalooza, and also on the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack album.
The three Fugees reunited and performed on September 18, 2004 at the concert in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn featured in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party (2004), headlining a star-studded bill that included Kanye West, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, Big Daddy Kane, and many more artists. Their performance received several positive reviews, many of which praised Hill's near a cappella rendition of "Killing Me Softly".