Lauryn Hill and The Fugees in New Jersey – Rolling Stone- Armessa Music News


“I’m home!” Lauryn Hill bellowed to the packed crowd at Newark’s Prudential Center. Her DJ, who performs as DJ Reborn, had properly set the tone for the night with an extended minute medley of Nineties hits — though they didn’t need much of a primer. The crowd was predominantly filled with spectators who looked like they were in Hill and the Fugees’ age bracket and had experienced the wonder of 1998’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill in real-time.

Lauryn’s sole solo album has sold over 20 million units — initially selling over 5,000,000 copies just six months after release. The universally-lauded album won her five Grammys, including Album Of The Year (making her only one of three Black women to do such). Before astrology apps warned us of every impending cosmic event, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill was a supernova so rare that Hill has been able to live simply off that album (and her Fugees work).

Last night was the start of her Ms. Lauryn Hill & Fugees: Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 25th Anniversary Tour, but she wasn’t alone. She informed the crowd that The Fugees had planned to embark on a 25th-anniversary tour for The Score last year, but were unable to, so they decided to celebrate their together. 

Lauryn Hill began the night solo, immediately bellowing into “Everything Is Everything” after greeting the crowd. Despite the crowd’s excitement that she was “only” 50 minutes late for her set time, it was immediately apparent that the audio levels in the arena were off. Her vocals were lower than those of her massive live band, making her singing sound muffled through most of the night. She also sang many of her classics in unique vocal arrangements that the crowd couldn’t anticipate. 

The Fugees perform at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on October 17th, 2023.

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

Her live band did some ambitious beat switching on some of the early songs: “Superstar” was interspersed with the beat for Freeway, Beanie Sigel, and Peedi Crakk’s “Flipside.” She also referenced The Lox and Lil Kim’s “Money Power Respect” during “Final Hour.” The first portion of the night felt like being invited to view The Last Supper painting, but the seats were switched; fans were somehow deciphering something that they thought they knew intrinsically. 

Still, most fans simply sang the album arrangement at the top of their lungs. Miseducation is an album that’s seeped into people’s lives during their euphoric highs and despondent lows. All many people needed was the opening pangs of the instrumentation to go into their own world with their favorite cuts. For better or worse, seeing the woman herself onstage sometimes seemed like merely a bonus. 

There were still great performances. Her rendition of “Nothing Even Matters,” “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “You’re Just To Be Good To Be True” were exceptional. All of her verses were more palpable just by virtue of her vocals cutting through the instrumentation. “To Zion” may have been the highlight of the night, as she sang about her first pregnancy and her son Zion as if she had just written the song. The song was paired with heartwarming visuals of a young, smiling Zion. It was powerful just in its mythological resonance; she was singing about resolving to have Zion despite others telling her a child would hinder her career. After 25 years, she stood affirmed in her decision in front of thousands of adoring fans. 

Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras of the Fugees perform at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on October 17th, 2023.

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

The visuals were on point throughout the night. Hill and her band were constantly shrouded by purple and red or teal and purple and other hues that evoked royalty. Hill made resourceful use of the arena’s spotlight. The screen showcased montages of notable Black figures, Black art, and quotes such as Marcus Garvey’s “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture, is like a tree without roots.” The liberating quotes (as well as Wyclef’s later calls for peace) had an extra weight with the current occupation in Gaza. During The Fugees’ set, they made the screen look like a drive-in film and a movie theater.  

But again, she didn’t need the bells and whistles. During the middle of the set, she gave a lengthy about her lineage in Newark, her parents fostering her artistry,  and living in the same neighborhood that she grew up in. “I’ve had the opportunity to live all around the world, but I keep coming back home,” she said to raucous applause. 

With gentrification rampant, it was refreshing to be in a place where it felt like everyone knew each other. The two people I attended the show with told me about going to Hill’s house to play with her kids back in the day; when Hill reeled off the names of people integral to the album’s creation and mentioned a Miriam Farrakhan, two women in the crowd jumped up and hugged the woman they were with, who must have been Farrakhan. Hill also had two high schools playing with her live band one from her alma mater Columbia High School, and another from Essex & Union County High School. 


Wyclef and Pras joined Lauryn for the second half of the night, tearing through about an hour of The Score. They had immense energy, but unfortunately, the middle-aged crowd was tired and stayed in their seats. There were multiple instances where Wyclef called for hands up to no avail. Guests John Forte and The Outsidaz had one of the most ruckus performances of the night during “Cowboys” (replete with clips of cowboys on the screen), but it was 11 PM by that point; perhaps if things had gotten started earlier, the crowd would have been more into it.  One got the sense fans were waiting for The Fugees to perform their hit singles. And indeed, once the opening of “Killing Me Softly” started, fans jumped on their feet and stayed there through “Ready or Not” and “Fugee-La” — as well as a Happy Birthday segment for the 54-year-old Wyclef (yes, they did the Stevie Wonder version too).

Overall, the opening night, in their Hometown of Newark, was a memorable occasion that would have been even better with cleaner audio mixing. It seems like Hill will continue to do her unique take on her classics, as she has for years. Fans will simply have to deal with the improvisation, which is her prerogative. If it wasn’t for her sonic choices, we wouldn’t be celebrating 25 years of a classic in the first place. 


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– Armessa Music News