Years before Wyclef Jean would become a pop-star, Lauryn Hill would create arguably the most influential album of the nineties (which allegedly was inspired by her love affair with Wyclef) launching her into superstardom, Pras would give us, uh…”Ghetto Supastar”, and collectively the trio would create one of the greatest hip-hop album of all time in The Score, the threesome, collectively known as the Fugees, had a beginning.
The first inception of the Fugees didn’t include Wyclef, but instead was Pras, Lauryn and a second female emcee, who all lived in the Newark, New Jersey area and went to high school together. Wyclef, who was born in Haiti and moved to Newark as a kid, was a few years older than Pras and Lauryn and was already doing his thing (in a different group, then later as a solo artist), but eventually would join Pras and Lauryn (the other female emcee would end up leaving the group) forming the revamped version of Fugees. The trio signed a deal with Ruffhouse/Columbia where they would release their debut album Blunted On Reality
Wyclef, Pras and Khalis Bayyan (who is one of the co-founding members of the legendary band Kool & The Gang) would handle most of the production work on Blunted On Reality. The album did produce a couple of mild hits but didn’t sell well, nor did it receive great reviews. In Brian Coleman’s book Check The Technique Wyclef and Pras even admit that they felt Blunted On Reality, in so many words, was trash. That doesn’t leave me optimistic going into this one.
Introduction – Blunted On Reality opens with a distorted voice (is it supposed to be God? Maybe Satan?) asking Wyclef questions, to which he replies to screaming like he’s burning in the pits of hell. Lauryn then spits a short spoken word piece about race relations in America, which sets up the next song…
Nappy Heads – Wyclef, Pras, Brand X and Rashad Muhammad get the production credit for this rugged backdrop and the Fugees, loosely, dedicate this one to our African-American heroes. Clef, Pras and L-Boogie sound like their moving way too fast and that they were more focused on creating energy than tight flows, delivery and clarity. The instrumental was cool, though.
Blunted Interlude – The song begins with the trio puffin’ on the magic dragon and getting philosophical about weed and all of its “magical powers”. Then a decent instrumental drops (with production credit going to Clef, Pras and Khalis Bayyan) and the trio talk their shit spitting random sup par bars. Not a terrible song, but not mind-blowing, either.
Recharge – Our hosts don’t really say anything worth quoting on this one (matter of fact, I could barely make out what any of them were saying, including Wyclef’s jumbled hook), but this instrumental is fire!
Freestyle Interlude – Wyclef and Pras spit terrible freestyles and are completely outshined by their homie T-Black, on this interlude. Thankfully, Pras’ verse is cut short when 5-0 roll on the scene and shuts shit down. Clef and Pras’ rhymes are so weak on this one they should have both been booked on charges for impersonating emcees.
Vocab – This was the third and final single released from Blunted On Reality. Wyclef and Pras lay down a simple acoustic guitar riff (which I would be willing to bet is more Wyclef’s than Pras’ doing) as they and Lauryn take turns spitting their vocab over it. The video version of this song uses a more upbeat instrumental (or maybe it’s just the addition of drums that make it sound more upbeat), which is the version I first heard. I think the remix is a better song, since all three emcees sound sharper on the mic, but the original is still cool.
Special News Bulletin Interlude – Just your normal, useless, run-of-the-mill hip-hop interlude.
Boof Baf – This was actually the first single released from Blunted On Reality, and this is my first time hearing it. It clearly didn’t make any noise on the charts, rightfully so, because everything about this song is terrible, including the song title.
Temple – Clef, Pras and Khalis Bayyan concoct a Caribbean-flavored instrumental, as all three Fugees use their verses to discuss religion, although Clef and Pras get sidetracked on occasion. As is, this song is rough around the edges and needs an “I” dotted here and a “T” crossed there, but it definitely gives a glimpse of the potential the trio would soon walk in.
How Hard Is It? – Thank you Fugees for using proper punctuation in the song title, but this song is still trash.
Harlem Chit Chat Interlude – It plays just as it reads.
Some Seek Stardom – Lauryn gets the first solo joint of the evening. Rashad Muhammad and Stephen Walker lay down subdue drums under a slick loop from Aretha Franklin’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (rest in peace to the Queen of Soul) and L-Boogie waxes poetic as she discusses life, death and the importance of revering God in this life. She even displays some of that fabulous singing voice at the end of the song that the world would soon fall in love with. L’s clarity and delivery were pretty bad on this one, but she definitely had a lot to say, and I like the instrumental.
Giggles – This is Pras’ solo joint, and everything about this song is so terrible it will make you giggle while you contemplate whether or not this nigga is serious about this rap thing.
Da Kid From Haiti Interlude – Interlude to set up the next song…
Refugees On The Mic – Wyclef, Pras and Mr. Bayyan construct a bluesy backdrop and dedicate this one to all the Haitian refugees, or at least Clef and Pras. I wasn’t crazy about this song, but it makes for decent filler material.
Living Like There Ain’t No Tomorrow – Lauryn and Pras had their shot, so it’s only right that Wyclef gets a solo joint too. Clef and Pras lay down a decent backdrop (that Clef hi-lariously shares that he “looped this on the S-nine-hundred” because he “couldn’t afford an eleven hundred”) for Clef, and he gets pretty animated sharing a few tales about living reckless. Not a great song, but Wyclef’s stories make it mildly entertaining.
Shouts Out From The Block – The Fugees bring back the instrumental from the previous song and Wyclef, Lauryn and Pras give their shoutouts and invite, what sounds like everybody from their hood, to give shout outs as well. This goes on for over ten minutes, which is extremely excessive and unnecessary.
Nappy Heads (Remix) – This remix was my first introduction to the Fugees. A young Salaam Remi hooks up an emotional and melodic backdrop for Wyclef, L-Boogie and Pras to celebrate the Nappy Heads, again. With the exception of Wyclef’s second verse, the trio lay down new lyrics, lay off the over the top energy, slow down a bit and start to settle into the synergy that made The Score so great. This song still sounds amazing 20 plus years later.
Blunted On Reality could have baked in the oven for another 30 minutes (or 3 hours), because when the Fugees served it to the world it definitely wasn’t ready. There are a few bright moments on the production side, but most of its mediocre at best. Wyclef, Pras and Lauryn (who’s now a strong argument for top ten emcee of all time in my book) were still trying to find their footing on the mic, rendering a large chunk of the album skippable. But thank God for seconds chances. Without them we’d have no Malcolm X. No Muhammad Ali. No Saint Peter. And no Fugees’ classic album in the form of The Score.