"The Score" by The Fugees
- This album has had its fair share of praise heaped on it, and it certainly isn’t a hidden gem by any means. But unlike a lot of records that fade over time, The Score hasn’t aged a day in fifteen years, and even in the midst of dozens of other landmark albums from its time - it came out the same year as Stakes Is High, Legal Drug Money, Beates, Rhymes And Life, Reasonable Doubt, ATLiens, Illadelph Halflife and Ironman - it still stands head and shoulders above almost everything else. The production juggles grit and gloss without ever sacrificing one for the other, nearly every verse has a handful of quotable lines from each member, and even though the songs borrow hooks, they’re ingeniously and innovatively sampled and interpolated, never coming off as just “lifted” (a la the majority of mainstream rap that would follow).
It’s a real shame that the song the group is best known for is a cover, because that one (as well as the Bob Marley cut) are the only weak links in an otherwise perfect chain. The range and versatility the group showed here was (and still is) unparalleled, but to top it off, as ambitious a record as it is, they nail every style they attempt to tackle - hard gangsta raps (“Cowboys”), playful joke verses (“The Mask”), and soul-baring emotion (“Manifest”).
One of the crown jewels not only of the best era of hip hop, but an outstanding achievement for the genre as a whole. I’ll be damned if it’s even come close to being topped by anything or anyone around today.