Ms. Lauryn Hill and The Fugees kick off tour at Prudential Center (REVIEW, PHOTO GALLERY, VIDEOS)

lauryn hill review


Lauryn Hill performs at the Prudential Center in Newark on Oct. 17.

Between a set of songs from her groundbreaking 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and a reunion set with her group The Fugees at the Prudential Center in Newark, Oct. 17, Lauryn Hill delivered a rap summing up her accomplishments with The Fugees. She did it twice, in fact: Once with music and once without. And I think it’s significant enough that I’m going to quote it at length, here, though even this is not the whole thing:

We blew the game up.
A Black woman and two Haitians,
and they had to put our names up.
It ain’t been the same since we left it.
We leave ’em breathless;
we were so far ahead that they still trying to catch us.
We broke boundaries that confounded MCs,
these fruitful trees from New Jersey and the West Indies,
Pras, Wyclef the preacher’s son, and me, L. Boogie.
We killed the shows so effectively,
we changed the whole musical trajectory.
Black stars in the pantheon with swords
like the samurais fighting for the underdogs.
Whole world had to recognize
that from the ground up, we built our sound up.
Whole industry had a foundation
because they found us.
… If no one else will say it, then let me say it.
If the Refugees didn’t come, then the radio wouldn’t play it.
We showed them how to think big on purpose.
We told the labels that Black people and rap music deserve this.
And they heard us.
That’s right, they had to hear it,
that the Black man and the Black woman in the mirror
would no longer feel inferior.
And we respect authority — real authority.
And we also know that the
authority is not always going with the majority.
And existential freedom is a priority.
And we spread that truth amongst the masses
of all different races and socioeconomic classes.


Wyclef Jean, right, and Pras Michel at the Prudential Center on Oct. 17.

Hill has not released a studio album since Miseducation. Nor have The Fugees have released a studio album since 1996’s The Score, though group member Wyclef Jean has been prolific as a solo artist, and the third member of the trio, Pras Michel, has two studio albums to his name (released in 1998 and 2005). But whatever the  issues are that have kept Hill from releasing a follow-up, or The Fugees from continuing to record together or tour more frequently … they seemed very far away throughout the Newark show. Hill seemed fully engaged. And she stayed onstage for more than two hours before wrapping the evening up after midnight — after singing “Happy Birthday to You” to Jean, who turned 54 on Oct. 17, and then reprising “Fu-Gee-La.”

(The show’s official starting time was 7:30 p.m., but there was no live music until about 9, when DJ Reborn started a DJ set. Hill started her Miseducation set — which, incidentally, did not stick to the album’s original song order — until about 9:45 p.m.)

The setting of the show, which kicked off a tour that will last until mid-December, was significant, as group members have roots in Newark, East Orange and South Orange. “I’ve had the opportunity to live all around the world, and I keep coming back home,” Hill said before the show’s last Miseducation song, “Doo Wop (That Thing).” “I live in the same neighborhood I grew up in.”

Hill also thanks her fans and her family for their support, and acknowledged the musicians who contributed to Miseducation. She also spoke about the album itself. “I wanted to make … an album about love songs, and protest music similar to the music that my parents (exposed her to).”

The musicians who backed Hill for the Miseducation set played with The Fugees as well. And there were a lot of them: About 30, including string and horn sections, and backing vocalists. (Rapper John Forté and the Newark-based group Outsidaz also made guest appearances during the Fugees set). Everything worked together to create a big, busy sound: Too big and busy for my taste. I think a sparer sound would have complemented Hill’s powerful voice, and The Fugees’ lyrical complexities, more effectively. In fact, the rare moments when the sound became less blaring made for some of the concerts most memorable moments, including the Miseducation ballad “To Zion” and the Fugees cover of the Roberta Flack hit, “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”


Lauryn Hill at the Prudential Center on Oct. 17.

The marching band from Hill’s alma mater, South Orange-Maplewood’s Columbia High School, joined in on the concert’s first number, “Everything Is Everything,” from the arena floor. But there were already so many layers of sound coming from the stage that they hardly made an impact. Audience members were bombarded with visuals, too, with photos and videos relevant to the songs, and messages like “This life is a process of learning. ”

Throughout the concert, Hill, with and without The Fugees, seemed to be going for a kind of frantic maximalism, which made for an exciting show, no question. But is that enough for Lauryn Hill and the Fugees? To quote Hill own spoken word piece (see above), “We showed them how to think big.” Shouldn’t that include creating a musical setting that doesn’t drown out your messages?

This tour also inevitably brings up the question, where do they go from here? Does Hill have another solo album in her? Or can The Fugees stay together long enough to make another album? (It must be added that Michel’s legal problems could make that impossible, even if the three want to do that).

It seemed, at the Prudential Center, like Hill was ready for anything. Maybe this tour is just something that caps a chapter in her life. Or maybe, if we’re lucky, it can begin another one.

For more information on Hill and the tour, visit

Here is a photo gallery by Wes Orshoski and, below it, some videos.



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