Vinyl Me, Please April Edition: Fugees – ‘The Score’
Vinyl Me, What? Vinyl Me, Please!!
Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog and lovingly assembled album art, the subscription service is more than just a record club … it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month. And in their living room.
Here’s how it works. You supply Vinyl Me, Please with $23 a month and they supply you with one meticulously selected album worthy of your time and attention. Stupid easy, right? Each custom pressing (often in color!) also includes tons of special features like original artwork and even a companion cocktail recipe. There’s also the chance to get some free vinyl swag that the VMP team dishes out with alarming regularity. Best of all, you get access to the VMP members-only store. The May store is now open, giving you a a chance to grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including March’s release of Long Way Home from Låpsley – plus additional rare or special edition vinyl. May treasures include horror maestro John Carpenter’s latest release Lost Themes II, noise-pop outfit Beverly’s new album, The Blue Swell (a VMP exclusive release in opaque blue/gray – 500 copies), Sturgill Simpson’s outstanding country-pop offering, The Sailor’s Guide To Earth and a 2LP re-issue of Beastie Boys landmark release, Ill Communication. Not to mention a drool-worthy 4LP reissue of Ryan Adam’s devastating solo debut, Heartbreaker. If that weren’t enough, May also sees the dawning of VMP’s ingenious new Swaps program that you can read all about right here.
Yep, the Vinyl Me, Please team have thought of pretty much everything. Do yourself a favor and sign up today. But first, let’s have a look at what’s inside this month’s box.
For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND
After cutting their teeth for a few years on the New York underground scene, Fugees went nuclear with the 1996 release of their second LP, The Score. With breakout hits in tracks ‘Ready Or Not’ and ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’, the album went on to massive crossover success, finding a home with jocks and hardcore kids alike and selling over 17 million copies world-wide. And for a fleeting moment in the mid-90s, Fugees were the biggest act on the planet, touring to sold out arenas and snagging a couple of Grammys – back when that still sort of meant something. Almost as soon as they hit, the group’s fractured infrastructure began to show. By 1997, Fugees members Pras, Lauryn Hill, and Wyclef Jean were all working on solo projects. The group wouldn’t perform together for another seven years. And a follow-up to The Score never materialized.
I wasn’t heartbroken when Fugees went their separate ways. The Score just didn’t do it for me when it was released. My massive Wu-Tang obsession at the time left me believing that Fugees were not hard enough for hip-hop. Plus, I’m stubborn as hell and refuse to listen to music when I feel like it’s being force-fed. I refused to listen to Nirvana until after Kurt Cobain was dead for the same reason – and The Score was getting a ton of airplay in 1996. I know … my loss. I openly admit that my stubbornness has prevented me from experiencing a lot of great music and musicians in their primes. Add The Score to that list. While I’m not ready to vault Fugees into Nirvana territory, I can say that I was wrong in writing off The Score as hip-pop drivel wrapped around a couple of dynamite singles. Boy was I wrong. In my defense, I’d never listened to The Score from beginning to end. Turns out that makes all the difference. Right when the chilled-out first beats of ‘Red Intro’ drop, you know you’re in for a different hip-hop experience. It only gets better from there. For the next hour or so, beats bump, lyrics flow, and heads will nod whether you want them to or not. Even those breakout hits take on darker tones when surrounded by knockout tracks like ‘Zealot’ and ‘Family Business.’ Throughout, you will marvel at just how tight Pras, Hill, and Jean keep their flow. Not a rhyme is missed, not a beat is wasted, and not a single thought is incomplete. And yes, The Score is one of the smartest hip-hop albums I’ve ever listened to. It’s one of the most fun as well. As much as it pains me to say it, I guess the music buying masses are right sometimes. They knew enough to make The Score one of the best-selling hip-hop albums of all time. Fugees more than earned that accolade. Twenty years later, they’re ready to earn a place near the top of your vinyl shelf.
But What’s in the Box?!
Fugees were a complicated act. And The Score is a complicated album. Props to the group for keeping things simple with the cover art and finding three distinct images to covey the three distinct personalities that made the magic of this album a reality.
As always, the album comes wrapped in a mini-sleeve chock full of important information like the artist’s name, the album’s title, month of issue … and even the initials of the person who personally handled your disc. Nice packaging, CI.
Don’t forget to flip that sleeve over and scope out The Score’s companion cocktail – AU-KEE-TA. It looks like a complicated concoction, but its main ingredient is Oak-aged Single Malt Scotch – so I’m in.
Digging deeper, you’ll find two hidden gems – a lovely bit of poetic rambling from VMP’s own Tyler Barstow (thanks for noting that bit about the surface noise) and a kick-ass 12″x 12″ print from artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle. It’s a killer piece of collage work and Hinkle explains her approach to the work on the flip side.
You’ll also find a $35 voucher for HelloFresh.com – which seems a bit random, but should still get put to good use in my house.
And all of this before you even peel the shrink-wrap off of your record. Before you rip open the plastic and start digging through that sleeve, make sure to take note of the all-important info on this sticker. Well done, VMP. Well done, indeed.
Once you get that plastic off, have a gander inside that gatefold and you’ll find liner notes and photographs of the group from their glory days.
Make sure you dig deep inside those sleeves, ’cause there’s goodies galore inside. Like this slick as 7″ featuring alternate versions of the song ‘Fu-Gee-La’ and a jaw-dropping acoustic version of ‘Mista Mista.’ And damn is that gold vinyl sexy.
But wait, there’s more!! Like this 12″ X 24″ foldout poster of The Score’s iconic cover art. Sweet.
So, what else is going on inside that sleeve, you ask? Colored vinyl!!!!!! And my god is it gorgeous. Team VMP, you’ve really outdone yourselves this month.
Just wait until you see it spin.
How’s it sound? Like walking into a party and realizing immediately that you are not cool enough to be there. But the vibe is chill. The music is bumping. You pick a spot and match the mood. Your head begins to nod in rhythm. The cute girl across the room throws you a shy smile while her boyfriend isn’t looking. Someone passes a cool beverage your way. And all is right with the world. Proper.
Give It a Spin, Eh?
I’d like to thank Vinyl Me, Please for recognizing that there’s a glaring, hip-hop sized hole in my vinyl collection. And for helping fill that void by sending The Score my way this month. Fugees’ incisive, head-nodding opus is an absolute stunner from beginning to end. And a powerful reminder of what hip-hop can be when it gets out of its own way. The Score still may not find itself among my favorite hip-hop albums from the ’90s – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) all the way – but it’s been a gas getting to know this album on more intimate terms. Thanks VMP for making that happen. Can’t wait to see what you throw at us for May. Of course, you may not always love the music VMP sends your way, but it will always be an adventure … and that’s the whole point of music.