POP / The Fugees Kentish Town Forum, London .

The greatest hip-hop circus on earth comes to town
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The Independent Culture
"Welcome to the hip-hop circus," cackles the Fugees' Wyclef. He and the band come fresh from performing their cover of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" for Top of the Pops, which The Fugees, this week, are. Not only is the single number one, but their album, The Score, has sold four million copies world- wide since its release a few months ago. In America, the three young Haitian refugees are massive - and crossover - enough to share a bill with Smashing Pumpkins. Funky, furious and funny as it is, The Score, by sheer weight of sales, is now something of a coffee- table record. It's the one record that people who don't listen to records buy, as was the case with Oasis's Definitely Maybe or Portishead's Dummy.

The Fugees have brought along some very special guests. "Prince and the Revolution couldn't be here," grins Wyclef, "but we got De La Soul in the house. Michael Jackson couldn't make it but we got Nas." This is a bill that showcases the past (De La Soul), present (The Fugees) and future (Nas) of rap. In the late-Eighties, De La Soul were as huge as The Fugees. As yet they have been unable to repeat either the ingenuity or success of their debut, 3 Feet High and Rising. If they ever do, they may well explode.

Luckily for The Fugees, their first album was not very good. Everyone said they should split up and that singer, 20-year-old Lauryn Hill, should go solo. There were no expectations for The Score. They didn't have to do their growing up in public. They grew up fast. Since their debut, a full-on, shouty affair, Lauryn has found her voice. It is astounding that the most committed, rich and spine- tingling sound in modern pop was not utilised before. But before the diva enters, rapping, Wyclef and the backing band play a selection of hip-hop classics, including Busta Rhymes's "Woo Ha!" and Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines', before segueing into Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry". "I remember when we used to sit in the government yard in Brooklyn," he sings. When Frank Sinatra changes words of well-loved standards, say, "That's why the lady is a tramp" to "That's why the chick is a champ", you want to punch things. But the Fugees' hearts (and minds) are firmly in the right place. As Wyclef explains: "Fugees stands for refugees. We represent the projects." Who better to celebrate and reinterpret Marley's legacy?

Wyclef, who for reasons unknown, is wearing a builder's hard hat and Lauryn and Pras (who entered the stage on a police motorbike) create between them a fluid sound in a field where live shows usually sound stilted. They are absolutely compelling, three fierce bundles of finger-flicking energy. Joined by labelmate Nas, they continue to play long after the Forum's curfew. Hail the greatest circus on earth.