The Score (Fugees album)

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The Score
Fugees - The Score.png
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 13, 1996 (1996-02-13)
RecordedJune–November 1995
Fugees chronology
Blunted on Reality
The Score
Bootleg Versions
Singles from The Score
  1. "Fu-Gee-La"
    Released: December 13, 1995
  2. "Killing Me Softly"
    Released: May 31, 1996
  3. "Ready or Not"
    Released: September 2, 1996
  4. "No Woman, No Cry"
    Released: December 5, 1996

The Score is the second and final studio album by the hip hop trio Fugees. The Score was released worldwide on February 13, 1996, on Columbia Records. The album features a wide range of samples and instrumentation, with many aspects of alternative hip hop that would come to dominate the hip-hop music scene in the mid-late 1990s. Primarily, The Score's production was handled by the Fugees themselves, Jerry Duplessis and Warren Riker, with additional production from Salaam Remi, John Forté, Diamond D, and Shawn King. The album's guest verses are from Outsidaz members Rah Digga, Young Zee, and Pacewon, as well as Omega, John Forté, and Diamond D. Most versions of the album feature four bonus tracks, including three remixes of "Fu-Gee-La", and a short acoustic Wyclef Jean solo track entitled "Mista Mista".

Upon its release, The Score was a commercial success, peaking at the number one spot on the Billboard 200, and becoming the third best selling album of 1996.[3] It also topped the Top R&B/Hip-hop Albums chart for eight weeks, becoming the longest running number one for a hip hop group,[4] and topped the 1996 year-end chart. The singles "Killing Me Softly", "Fu-Gee-La", and "Ready or Not" also achieved notable chart success, and helped the group achieve worldwide recognition.

The album received mostly favorable reviews. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, becoming the second rap album to receive a nomination and the first for a hip hop group,[5] while winning the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, along with Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Killing Me Softly" at the 39th Grammy Awards. In retrospect, The Score has garnered a considerable amount of acclaim over the years, with many music critics and publications noting it as one of the greatest albums of the 1990s, as well as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. In 1998, The Score was included in The Source's 100 best rap albums list, and in 2020, the album was ranked number 134 on Rolling Stone magazine's revised list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[6]

As of February 2021, The Score has been certified seven times platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It is the best-selling album by an American hip hop act in France,[7] where the album has been certified Diamond. With an estimated 22 million copies sold worldwide,[8] the album has become one of the best-selling albums of all time, at the time of its release it briefly became the best-selling hip hop album of all time,[9][10] and remains the best-selling album by a hip hop group.[11] As of June 2021, the album is the fifth most streamed rap album released in the 1990s on Spotify.[12]


Although the Fugees' previous album, Blunted on Reality proved to be critically and commercially unsuccessful, Chris Schwartz, the head of Ruffhouse Records, decided to give the group another chance. In early 1995, he gave them a $135,000 advance and granted them complete artistic control for a follow-up album.[13] The group used the money for recording equipment and set up a studio in Wyclef Jean's uncle's basement, which they referred to as the Booga Basement.[13]

Recording for the album began in June 1995, and extended into November 1995[14] at what Jean described as a, "relaxed pace... It 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. It sounded like a feel-good hip hop record to us, and it was different than what anyone was doing at the time. It was three kids from an urban background expressing themselves."[13]

In regard to The Score's unified themes and production, Lauryn Hill commented, "It's an audio film. It's like how radio was back in the 1940s. It tells a story, and there are cuts and breaks in the music. It's almost like a hip hop version of Tommy, like what The Who did for rock music."[15]


The Score was produced by a variety of producers including each member of the Fugees, as well as Diamond D, Salaam Remi, and Jerry Duplessis. Although most tracks are built on sampled melodies, live instrumentation and DJing are incorporated into multiple tracks. Wyclef Jean plays the guitar on "Family Business", while DJ Scribble scratches on "Manifest/Outro". Nevertheless, samples are the predominant production tool on The Score. "Fu-Gee-La" incorporates a sample of Teena Marie's "Ooo La La La", and is interpolated in the song's chorus. "Ready or Not" also contains a sample that is interpolated; "Ready or Not (Here I Come)" by The Delfonics. "Manifest/Outro" contains a sample from "Rock Dis Funky Joint" by Poor Righteous Teachers, while the title track, "Red Intro" contains vocal samples from every track on the entire album.

Three official singles were released in promotion of The Score, the first of which was "Fu-Gee-La", which was released on January 9, 1996, reached the Top 40, peaking at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. Additionally, the song reached No. 13 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and No. 2 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.[16] "Fu-Gee-La" was produced by Salaam Remi and includes elements of "Ooo La La La" as performed by Teena Marie.

The second single, "Killing Me Softly", with lead vocals by Lauryn Hill, was released on May 31, 1996. "Killing Me Softly" proved to be the most successful single from the album. The song went No. 1 in 20 countries, including on the UK Singles Chart, where it has become one of the region's best-selling singles ever. In the US the song wasn’t available for purchase, which made it ineligible to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 chart due to their previous rules;[17] however it still managed to peak at No. 1 on the US Mainstream Top 40 and Rhythmic airplay charts.[18] Initially, the song was to be titled "Killing Them Softly", and though alluding to Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel's "Killing Me Softly with His Song", it was originally not intended to be a cover; however, the original writers refused permission for the rewrite of their song, but did allow the Fugees to do a cover version.[19] In 1997, "Killing Me Softly" won the Fugees a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by Duo or group.[20]

The third single released from the album was "Ready or Not", which was released on September 2, 1996. In the US the song peaked at No. 34 on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart.[16] The song became their second No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, staying at the top for two weeks.[21] The track interpolates "Ready or Not, Here I Come (Can't Hide from Love)" as performed by The Delfonics, and also samples Enya's "Boadicea". Initially this sample was uncredited, and Enya was prepared to sue for copyright infringement, but decided not to when she discovered that the Fugees were not gangsta rappers.[22]

The accompanying music video was directed by film director Marcus Nispel, and was reported to have cost approximately 1.3 million dollars at the time, making it one of the most expensive music videos ever.[23] In a later interview, Fugees member Pras described the recording of "Ready or Not", stating, "The three of us was each going through some pain. Lauryn was crying when she did her vocals. It was unbelievable. To see her singing with tears coming out of her eyes, it made me want to cry too."[14]

The fourth and final single from the album, a cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry", with lead vocals by Wyclef Jean, was released on November 18, 1996. Produced by Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, with additionally production from Pras and Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessis.[24] It features uncredited backing vocals from by Marley's children Stephen and Sharon Marley, as well as reggae singer Pam Hall.[25] An official remix of the track, featuring Stephen Marley, was included on the group's third release, Bootleg Versions.[26] The song peaked at No. 38 on the US Hot 100 Airplay chart.[27] It was more successful worldwide, peaking atop the New Zealand Singles Chart for two weeks,[28] and No. 2 in the UK.[29]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[30]
Christgau's Consumer GuideA[31]
Entertainment WeeklyA[32]
Los Angeles Times[33]
Rolling Stone[36]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[37]

Upon its release, The Score received critical acclaim. Entertainment Weekly writer James Bernard commented, "What a shock: a smooth, well-produced rap album that doesn't have Dr. Dre's fingerprints on it [...] The Score showcases their acrobatic lyrical techniques and restless intelligence, and unlike much East Coast rap, The Score feels warm and intimate — partly because the instruments are live but also because the Fugees sound so relaxed and casual."[32] Robert Christgau from The Village Voice called The Score "so beautiful and funny its courage could make you weep", and said the Fugees possess "black humanism" and "the gender-equality formula in which one girl learning equals two guys calling the shots".[39] Steve Huey from AllMusic wrote that, "Even when they're not relying on easily recognizable tunes, their original material is powered by a raft of indelible hooks [...] The Score balances intelligence and accessibility with an easy assurance, and ranks as one of the most distinctive hip hop albums of its era."[1] Cheo Hodari Coker from the Los Angeles Times wrote that, "The Score succeeds on all counts", while the Fugees are as fluid a rap group since A Tribe Called Quest: "Their specialty is matching a gymnastic rhyme flow and rock-solid beats with expert crooning."[33] Selwyn Seyfu Hinds of Spin commented, "A sense of organic interaction is the hallmark of this album [....] the album's most important factor is its beats; chest-shaking, obscure-texture-having, freestyle-friendly beats."[38] Q described the album as "An impressively panoramic soundscape."[35]

However, in a mixed review, Rolling Stone writer Ann Powers commented, "The Fugees' roots in reggae gives them a solid base in song and a basic philosophy that's richer than the money-or-nothing ethic that dulls much of rap these days. Without being sanctimonious, The Score paints the ghetto as a mythical landscape, one that can inspire pride as well as sorrow. Like Wu-Tang Clan, the Fugees view the world as their movie, complete with stunts and special effects."[36] Jon Pareles of The New York Times found the group's "vision of ghetto life" both eccentric and realistic, although he felt "Killing Me Softly" sounds "out of place amid the hard-nosed surrealism".[40]


Year Organization Award Result
1997 Soul Train Music Awards Album of the Year Nominated
Grammy Awards Album of the Year Nominated
Best Rap Album Won


  • Information regarding accolades is extracted from,[41] except for accolades with additional sources.
  • (*) Signifies unordered lists
Publication Country Accolade Year Rank United States 100 Greatest Rap Albums[42] 2008 18
Best Rap Albums of 1996[43] 2008 5
Alternative Press 20 Albums That Paved The Way For Alternative As We Know It[44] 2022 *
BigO Singapore Albums of the Year 1996 34
Blender United States 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die 2003 *
Ego Trip hip hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980–98 1999 5
Elvis Costello United Kingdom 500 Albums You Need 2000 *
Expressen Sweden The 100 Best Records Ever 1999 100
Eye Weekly Canada Albums of the Year 1996 15
Face United Kingdom Albums of the Year 1996 1
Helsingin Sanomat Finland 50th Anniversary of Rock 2004 *
Hip Hop Connection United Kingdom The 100 Greatest Rap Albums 1995–2005 2005 15
Juice Australia The 100 (+34) Greatest Albums of the 90s 1999 64
Mixmag United Kingdom Albums of the Year 1996 2
Mojo Albums of the Year 1996 15
The Mojo Collection (3rd and/or 4th Edition) 03/07 *
Muzik Albums of the Year 1996 3
The New Nation Top 100 Albums by Black Artists 2005 34
NME United States 1996 Crits Poll 1996 22
United Kingdom Albums of the Year 1996 22
Nude as the News United States The 100 Most Compelling Albums of the 90s 1999 97
OOR Netherlands Albums of the Year 1996 38
Pause & Play United States The 90s Top 100 Essential Albums 1999 11
Plásticos y Decibelios Spain The 80 Best Albums of All Time 2000 68
Pop Sweden Albums of the Year 1996 1
Pure Pop Mexico Albums of the Year 1996 10
Q United Kingdom Albums of the Year 1996 *
90 best Albums of the 90s 1999 *
Record Collector 10 Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century 2000 *
Robert Dimery United States 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[45] 2005 *
Rock Sound France Albums of the Year 1996 24
Rolling Stone United States Albums of the Year 1996 10
The Essential Recordings of the 90s 1999 *
100 Best Albums of the Nineties[46] 2011 44
The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time [47][48] 2003 477
2012 469
2020 134
The Source 100 Best Rap Albums[49] 1998 *
The Critics Top 100 Black Music Albums of All Time[50] 2006 34
Spex Germany Albums of the Year 1996 41
Spin United States 20 Best Albums of '96 1996 2
Top 90 Albums of the 90s 1999 17
Tom Moon 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die[51] 2008 *
Various Writers Albums: 50 Years of Great Recordings 2005 *
Vibe 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century 1999 *
The Village Voice Albums of the Year 1996 2
Vox United Kingdom Albums of the Year 1996 15
VPRO Netherlands 299 Nominations of the Best Album of All Time 2006 *
Yardbarker United States The 25 most important hip hop albums from the '90s[52] 2022 *
Yediot Ahonot Israel Top 99 Albums of All Time 1999 74

Track listing[edit]

1."Red Intro" 
  • Wyclef
  • Te Bass
  • Pras[a]
2."How Many Mics"4:28
3."Ready or Not"
  • Jean
  • Michel
  • Hill
5."The Beast"
  • Jean
  • Michel
  • Hill
Salaam Remi4:20
7."Family Business" (featuring John Forté and Omega)
  • Wyclef
  • Hill
  • Forté
  • Pras[a]
  • Te Bass[a]
8."Killing Me Softly"
9."The Score" (featuring Diamond D)
10."The Mask"
  • Jean
  • Michel
  • Hill
11."Cowboys" (featuring Pace 1, Young Zee and Rah Digga)
  • Wyclef
  • Hill
  • Forté
  • Pras[a]
  • Te Bass[a]
12."No Woman, No Cry"Vincent Ford
  • Jean
  • Michel
  • Hill
Total length:60:52
Bonus tracks (CD only)
14."Fu-Gee-La" (Refugee Camp remix featuring John Forté)
  • Jean
  • Michel
  • Hill
  • McGrier
  • Marie
15."Fu-Gee-La" (Sly & Robbie mix)
  • Jean
  • Michel
  • Hill
  • McGrier
  • Marie
Handel Tucker5:27
16."Mista Mista"Jean
  • Wyclef
  • Te Bass
  • Hill[a]
17."Fu-Gee-La" (Refugee Camp global mix featuring John Forté)
  • Jean
  • Michel
  • Hill
  • McGrier
  • Marie
Total length:77:52


  • ^[a] signifies a co-producer.
  • Interludes performed by Talent, Wil Shannon Briggs and Ras Baraka.
  • Intro performed by Red Alert and Ras Baraka.
  • Outro performed by Red Alert.

Sample credits




Certifications and sales for The Score
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[91] Platinum 70,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[92] Platinum 50,000*
Belgium (BEA)[93] Platinum 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[94] 5× Platinum 500,000^
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[95] 4× Platinum 80,000double-dagger
Finland 26,267[96]
France (SNEP)[97] Diamond 1,000,000*
Germany (BVMI)[98] 3× Gold 750,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[99] Gold 100,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[100] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[101] Platinum 15,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[102] Gold 25,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[103] Platinum 100,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[104] Platinum 100,000^
Sweden (GLF)[105] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[106] 2× Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[107] 5× Platinum 1,500,000^
United States (RIAA)[108] 7× Platinum 7,000,000double-dagger
Europe (IFPI)[109] 6× Platinum 6,000,000*
Worldwide 22,000,000[110][111]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


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