Once upon a time, it was damn near impossible to walk down a city street and not hear music from The Fugees blasting out of some loudspeaker. Dubbed the “Leaders of the New Cool” by Rolling Stone, the hip-hop trio of Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel produced seemingly borderless music that crossed style and time. About a year ago, The Fugees announced they’re reuniting for a world tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their breakthrough album, The Score, and I remember shaking my head in utter disbelief upon hearing this news. It wasn’t because Hill and Jean had apparently mended fences after an infamous falling out. Rather, the iconic group’s third core member is dealing with a pretty serious criminal situation.
Michel, after all, is facing significant jail time over his connections to Jho Low, the Malaysian financier and social climber who once partied with A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Fox and Kim Kardashian before landing on the F.B.I.’s most wanted list for allegedly masterminding the theft of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund. U.S. federal prosecutors allege the “Ghetto Superstar” rapper attempted to covertly influence American officials on Low’s behalf, including by funneling millions of dollars into Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign through various straw donors, and later trying to get Donald Trump to send a Chinese dissident—billionaire Guo Wengui—back to China. The Justice Department demanded that Michel not leave the country, and The Fugees tour was eventually postponed after quiet negotiations over his bail conditions broke down.
Instead of hitting Paris, London, and other hotspots, Michel will soon appear for a trial scheduled to begin Nov. 4 in a D.C. courtroom. There, his lawyers are teasing a show that figures to be quite spectacular. For starters, recent court papers suggest that both Obama and Trump could be called as witnesses. Even if that doesn’t happen (and let’s be honest, it probably won’t), Michel’s criminal defense attorney David Kenner—an 80-year-old who most notably helped Snoop Dogg beat murder charges back in 1996—has been pounding the table over how the government is harassing a Black artist while letting other politically-prominent individuals skate for similar conduct.