How’s Ya Life?
The road to success has been long and arduous for Prakazrel “Pras” Michel. During the early ’90s, the Haitian born New Jersey transplant formed the Fugees with his cousin, Wyclef, and Lauryn Hill. In 1994, the trio released their debut disc, Blunted on Reality, on Ruffhouse Records. The project was mostly overlooked, save for the remix of their “Nappy Heads” single. The group, however, wouldn’t become a mainstream fixture until their 1996 sophomore LP, The Score. Hailed as a classic by most critics, the album featured mega-hits such as “Killing Me Softly” and “Ready or Not,” and went on to sell well over 10 million copies worldwide. Each of the members embarked on solo careers, Pras being the last when he released Ghetto Supastar in 1998. Although the LP had a huge hit with the title track, which featured Mya and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, it only moved 170,000 units. Compared to Wyclef’s Grammy-nominated and Lauryn’s Grammy-winning efforts, the response to Ghetto Supastar was a disappointment.
With inner conflict affecting the Fugees, Pras retreated from music and tried to find his way in Hollywood appearing in several films, including Mystery Men (1999), Turn it Up (2000) and Nora’s Hair Salon (2004). After a six-year hiatus, he returned to the mic in 2005 with Win, Lose or Draw, but lackluster sales dampened his sophomore effort. Never one to give up, the 34-year-old began working on another album, Experience, last year, as well as a new documentary, Skid Row. The film features Pras living undercover as a homeless man in Los Angeles’ notorious Skid Row district. With a variety of projects in the works and a newfound vigor, Pras is looking to put his career back on track. In an interview with XXLMag.com, he discusses his new documentary, upcoming album and the chances of a Fugees reunion.
Your documentary, Skid Row, just debuted in Los Angeles. What inspired you to do a project about the homeless?
It’s funny because a friend actually brought up the idea a few years ago while we were playing Scrabble. At first I thought he was just trying to get in my head and throw me out of the game, but then I realized he was serious and [I] decided to roll with it.
You’ve stated this project gave you a new perspective on the issue of homelessness. Are you hoping Skid Row will do the same for the rest of America?
Yeah. Obviously, homelessness is not sexy. It’s embarrassing and a lot of people think all homeless people are lazy or on drugs. But sometimes it boils down to lack of support and family. When I was out there on Skid Row I saw a lot of bugged out things. I saw fiends on heroine having fits and people fighting over things that, to us, seem so unimportant. But to them, [it] meant being warm or eating for the night. I was interested in doing this project because a lot of people—Black people especially—don’t realize how close we are to living in that type of situation. I mean seven out 10 Americans are one paycheck away from being in poverty or homeless. So I felt this is the best way to show my community what this is all about.
You’re also working on your new album, Experience. What can listeners expect to hear?
They can expect a more edgy [sound]. It’s hip-hop but a combination of different styles and vibes. Experience is the best teacher and over the years I have learned a lot from trial and error, and it will definitely show with this album. I am not going to sit up here and say it’s going to reach the success of The Score because I am not going to set myself up to be stoned [Laughs].
Were you happy with your last album—Win, Lose or Draw— and how it was received?
I think with Win Lose or Draw it was… Well, I can’t shit on the label because that’s what everyone does. So I will just break it down to experience. Because experience in the end has taught me that I can’t trust the label, meaning that I am responsible for putting out my own shit. Labels aren’t in the business of developing artists anymore. Now, it’s like they are just adding to the buzz that you already have, but not adding to the creative aspect of you because they are greedy. That’s why with the Win, Lose or Draw album, it sounded like it did because I had a bunch of people basically saying whatever I put out was hot and after a while you start to believe it, even if you know it ain’t true. At that point, I was thinking, “Damn, if all these people are saying it’s hot and it’s a hit, maybe it is.” And I ended up with an album that nobody felt. So that is why with my new album, I went in artistically and didn’t hold back.
What’s the current status of the Fugees reunion?
Spiritually, creatively and artistically, I am in a different place. Personally, I don’t give a fuck about the Fugees. Not saying that negatively, but I was really a fan of Lauryn Hill and I felt that if she would have honed her skills she could have definitely been one of the greatest MCs. But now she is just straight up wack. She is really on some other shit, walking around having muthafuckas call her Ms. Hill, which is so wack. There’s too much going on in the world and she is abusing the situation that she was blessed to be in. There are so many people that started out on top and now can’t pay for an interview. I feel blessed to be here and for her lyrical content to be so hateful is wrong to me. To me, she has shown that over the years she has not grown at all. So yes, I believe 100 percent that Lauryn Hill is at fault for the reunion of the Fugees not working out. I am not saying this to be mean, I am saying this hoping that people will help her wake up, take her to a “come to Jesus” meeting or something, because she ain’t right.
Do you think that you and Ms. Hill will ever be able to reconcile in the future?
I will put it to you like this, you will have a better chance of seeing Osama Bin Laden in Starbucks having a latte before Lauryn will really get her shit together. At this point, I really think it will take an act of God to change her, because she is that far out there. I mean look at John Forté and his situation. I feel anything beats being in jail and right now he would kill to be in her position. That’s how I am looking at things when it comes to her, through those eyes.
Since Lauryn is pretty much out of the equation, are there any plans for you and Wyclef partnering up for a project?
Not really, I mean we are supporting each other’s projects, but right now we are more focused on getting our solo projects jumping off.
Are there any other projects in the works we need to look out for?
I have another movie in the works called Bel Aire, it’s based in Haiti and Michael Tyler, who directed Skid Row and the video for [my new single] “Pop Life,” is also directing this film. The film is real cool, because it’s a political thriller. It’s based in Haiti and takes place in New Mexico and Puerto Rico. I play a character named Francis who’s on the run and takes a reporter hostage. I am feeling it, because it shows the conflicts in Haiti and how the U.S. is involved.
Despite your many ups and downs it sounds like you’re in a good space now.
I am. The “Pop Life” video debuts on BET in a few weeks and the album came a long so natural, it just makes me excited. Honestly, I haven’t been this excited about a project like this since The Score.