Wyclef Jean Explains the Origin of the Fugees' Hit Song "Ready or Not" on Its 20th Anniversary
On Feb. 13, 1996, a virtually unknown trio from South Orange, N.J., changed music forever with the release of their second album, The Score. Their unique sound—a mélange of hip-hop, soul, and reggae—was indicative of their moniker, the Fugees, derived from the word "refugee." (Two members, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel, are Haitian; the third, Lauryn Hill, is American.)
The 17-track LP remains one of the best-selling records of all time, thanks in no small part to the hit single "Ready or Not"—a perfect representation of the group's uncanny ability to shift from rapping to singing against the backdrop of a somber melody, infamously sampled from Enya's "Boadicea." We asked Jean to explain the genesis of the song on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.
"I started that record in my basement after watching Sleepwalkers," he recently told InStyle on the rooftop of The Renaissance Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. "That voice comes in and ... wow. After that, I got obsessed with Enya and started researching all about her." He paused, then continued: "I was smoking my grass, chillin', then I took my MPC and did a basic drum pattern. I started sampling the first part of Enya's song and knocked into the beat. And I remember Lauryn walking in at that moment like, 'What you got?' I said, 'I'm trying to cook up this beat.' And she just started going, 'Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide.' And that's just how the record came to be. It was like a movie."
There you have it, folks.