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ALBUM REVIEWS : Versatile Fugees Wrap Up Some Classics : ** 1/2 FUGEES, "The Score" Columbia

February 24, 1996|CHEO HODARI COKER

The New Jersey rap trio clears up a few misconceptions on its second album. The first is that because of its occasional leanings toward live instruments, its music falls into the nebulous "alternative rap" category. Second, that emcee Lauryn Hill is the group's only asset. And third, that its hit "Vocab" was some strange fluke.

"The Score" succeeds on all counts. As a cohesive unit, Hill, Wyclef Jean and Prakazrel Michel complement one another like no rap trio since A Tribe Called Quest. Their specialty is matching a gymnastic rhyme flow and rock-solid beats with expert crooning.

Original songs such as "The Score," "Zealots" and "Fu-Gee-La" score some points, but novel remakes of R&B and reggae classics really set the Fugees apart. Hill's blissful vocal turn at "Killing Me Softly With His Song" and Jean's evocative reconstruction of Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" mark the Fugees as versatile musical talents, proving that young rappers have a lot more on their minds than profit-driven nihilism.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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