Ms. Lauryn Hill & The Fugees Are a Nostalgic Hip-Hop Treat
Whenever I tell anyone I’m going to see Lauryn Hill their first question is inevitably, “Was she late?”
While there was a time when that was a funny (and legitimate), inquiry regarding Ms. Hill, it’s unfair to such an important and iconic artist to reduce her to…tardiness. For the record she was as fashionably late as any other artist, but not excessively so. The fashion in question was worth the wait as the luminous Hill was expertly styled in a black and white suit/dress mashup and her hair was coiffed in a gravity defying bejeweled up-do that served as her crown. The queen was in the building.
The warmup act, DJ Reborn provided a fun mix of old school R&B, Hip-Hop, and Afrobeat that got the
crowd going despite some less-than-smooth transitions between tracks. I initially balked at the shortage
of mid to late 90s hip-hop that accompanied the night’s performers on the radio in their hey-day and
creative peak, but the mix of songs actually helped to unify the somewhat surprisingly diverse group of
spectators. The New York (by way of Chicago) DJ drove home this observation when she did a
generational vibe check of the audience asking everyone born in each decade going back to the 1960s to
make some noise. Personally, I was expecting an overwhelming majority of the audience to be Gen X
and Millennial hip-hop heads, and they were definitely present, but joining them were their Gen Z
counterparts, suburban soccer moms, and a sprinkling of grandmas and aunties for good measure.
Although, that should be expected when the work being celebrated is a multi-platinum, landmark album
that spans multiple genres and demographics.
The first half of the show was Ms. Hill going through the various songs on the album with admirable
energy and zeal. The pacing felt very quick, but she got through full versions of fourteen of the album’s
seventeen tracks (Sorry, “Every Ghetto, Every City”) and never lost the crowd. At one point she did
apologize for the rawness of her voice, and sounding ‘like Mavis Staples,’ but in many ways the raspy
crackle in her voice just added to the emotional heft of many of the tracks. Especially when the music
was stripped down on songs like “Ex Factor,” and the title track.
After a very brief intermission, the second half of the show kicked off with an intro by Ms. Hill explaining
through song how The Fugees came to be and what they stood for before eventually introducing the
affable Wyclef Jean who had been quietly playing guitar in the background. Then part way through the
first song, the trio was completed when Pras Michel appeared from off stage for his verse. The group
proved that they haven’t lost any of the chemistry that made them a force to be reckoned with in 1996
when The Score, their sophomore album, exploded them on to the global stage. All of the hits from that
album were performed as well as deep cuts like “Zealots” and “Cowboys” for which they brought out
Outsidaz who were featured on the song. Jean in particular seemed to relish his time on the stage,
especially on his solo performances of “911” his 2000 hit featuring Mary J. Blige, and his cover of “No
Woman, No Cry.” He bounced all over the stage and at one point even went into the audience to hype
up the crowd for the finale.
Seeing the trio rekindle the spark that made so many of us love them nearly 30 years ago makes the idea
of them recording new material very tempting, but that may be asking for too much. For now, this
reunion show is an exciting trip down memory lane, and a testament to the stellar output of the three
artists together and separately.
Miss Lauryn Hill & The Fugees played Los Angeles two nights in a row. One at the Crypto Arena on
Saturday night, and on Sunday night at the Kia Forum.
Marques Wayne has been a writer/ reviewer for Pop Culture Beast since 2011.
In addition to studying Film Production and Screenwriting at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and Los Angeles Valley College respectively, he is also co-founder of Paige9 Publishing, home of horror fiction author Pheare Alexander.