Breaking the Silence: The Fugees and the Score1

By Lipsitz, George | Journal of Haitian Studies, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Breaking the Silence: The Fugees and the Score1


Lipsitz, George, Journal of Haitian Studies


The thunder I have known, that I have fled with all my soul and now return to, humbled, is nothing more than the light contained in the distant murmurings of an unforgotten land.

-Myriam Chancy2

Michel-Rolph Trouillot argues that "silences are inherent in history."3 Narratives about the past draw their coherence as much from what they omit as from what they include. All histories are partial, perspectival, and interested. They tell unified stories from self-designated points of view. The history of the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution remains largely unknown in the western world, Trouillot explains, because Haiti's successful slave revolt and ensuing independence conflicted with so much of what happened everywhere else on the globe both before and since. Haitian self-activity and self-determination defied European desires and contradicted "most of what the West has told both itself and others about itself.'4 Rather than confront the critique of white supremacy embodied in the Haitian Revolution, historians have generally chosen to be silent about it.

When future historians chronicle the turn of the twenty-first century, they will doubtless remain silent about the actions, aspirations, and alienations of the more than one hundred million migrants living outside their nations of birth and citizenship. In telling the story of our time, future historians will most likely draw on sources that privilege the perspectives of the powerful, the geopolitical interests of nation states and transnational corporations. Yet unauthorized histories of our time are being authored every day by artists, activists, and intellectuals far removed from the centers of power. They seek to shatter the silences that suppress their own subjectivities and sensibilities about the lives that happen to be open to them in an age of mass migration, systematic labor exploitation, racism, and imperialism. Although cultural workers rarely intend to create a verifiable record of historical change, their efforts to translate the aspirations, achievements, alienations, and indignities of their communities into art can provide powerful evidence about how historical forces shape the lives of ordinary men and women today.

The recording of The Score by the hip hop and rhythm and blues group The Fugees in 1996 provides a powerful example of how history can be written from below. One of the most successful hip hop albums of all time, selling more than 17 million units world wide, The Score sensitively registered the impacts of global migration, deindustrialization, economic restructuring, and racial subordination in the lives of inner city youths. The group consisted of U.S. born Lauryn Hill and Haitian immigrant friends Wyclef Jean and Prakazrel (Pras) Michel. They started singing together as teenagers in New Jersey in the late 1980s, beginning as the Tranzlator Crew. By the time they reached their early twenties, they renamed themselves the Fugees to acknowledge and honor Haitian refugees. The name they chose for their group turned the negative slang term used to demean refugees into a mark of positive affirmation.

The Score featured an innovative blend of hip hop, soul, salsa, reggae and Haitian rara that emphasized the transnational and panethnic dimensions of African American identity. Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean displayed especially stunning gifts as songwriters, rappers, and singers. Many of The Score's songs contained memorable, compelling, and socially conscious lyrics. The group celebrated the rich textures of everyday life in the inner city, documenting the lives of people who, although often broke, have not yet been broken. They rapped about police brutality, racism, and sexism, yet managed to affirm an indomitable collective determination to live meaningful lives nonetheless.

Perhaps most importantly, The Score presented lyrics, melodies, rhythms, sampling, singing, and playing that loudly proclaimed commitments to the kinds of diasporic imagination and world transcending citizenship that emerged organically from the lives of the members of the Fugees as both raced subjects in the U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Breaking the Silence: The Fugees and the Score1
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.