Everybody’s all-College Dropout-everything right now but another seminal debut album from an act that came out of leftfield to redefine hip-hop (and black music generally) celebrates a major birthday this month. We are talking about The Fugees‘ Blunted On Reality, which was released by Ruffhouse/Columbia records to little (or no) fanfare on February 1st, 1994. Though it was only the remix of “Nappy Heads”–not recorded or released until after the album was out–that put The Fugees on commercial radio, underground hip-hop fans and college radio DJs (Hi, that was me) were blown away by the heady lyrical references, pan-African vibes on Blunted On Reality, not to mention the album’s fearless approach to making hip-hop (a rap song built on acoustic guitar and no drums??)
In recognition of this major milestone for rap (not to mention Caribbean music) LargeUp shares some exclusive behind the scenes reminiscences about the making of the album from Fugees producer/svengali Salaam Remi, as told to LargeUp editor Jesse Serwer— including how the seeds of songs that ended up on The Fugees sophomore outing The Score and Wyclef’s solo debut The Carnival were already being sown with the Blunted on Reality sessions. Get a taste of the meeting that lead to the famous remixes of “Nappy Heads” and the all-acoustic “Vocab” below and click through for more oral history via LargeUp:
The [Fugees’] product manager at Columbia Records was Jeff Burroughs, who’s now with X Factor, and he was roommates with Jessica Rosenblum, NY’s party promoter extraordinaire, and she was managing Funkmaster Flex at the time. He heard Mega Banton’s“Soundboy Killing” and [wanted] something like that for the Fugees. He called me to his office to come check out this group, and mind you he’s marketing, not A&R, so he plays me a videotape of them performing “Vocab” acoustic. It was getting close to Christmas, like Thanksgiving, and I was like let me get this last check out the labels before they shut the books down. And when they came through, they wanted to remix “Nappy Heads.” The original version felt like a Onyx record, it was grimy and uptempo. Wyclef came through to meet me and he had on a bubble goose and nappy, nappy hair, Adidas sweatpants. He took it and vibed on it and was like I want you to meet the girl so in came Pras and Lauryn. I remember the session—December 13, 1993—cause I had a cassette with the date on it. Clef rhymed on it for like 15 minutes. For that same session he did “Gone til November.” Having my NY radio, club ear on, I made it so it would start off with the right kind of energy—the “Cheeba cheeba y’all” verse felt right.