"An audio film," Lauryn Hill famously called it twenty years ago upon its initial acclaimed release. "It's like how radio was back in the 1940s. It tells a story, and there are cuts and breaks in the music. It's almost like a hip-hop version of Tommy, like what The Who did for rock music." Ms. Hill is describing The Score, the Fugees' second and final album, delivered 20 years ago; a project that garnered '97 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album and Best R&B Performance while changing the landscape of hip-hop and R&B with its three-fold acrobatic lyrical technique, soul-sampling production and restless intelligence. A classic in every sense of the often misused term.

In the Booga Basement, a small crowded crypt in New Jersey belonging to the father of album co-executive producer Jerry "Wonda" Duplessis, the multi-platinum hip-hop opera was formed within the span of five months. Three leading characters headed the script – Lauryn, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michael; refugee camp productions – who thunderously delivered a polygonal soundtrack to their urban neighborhoods' plight in the mid-90s, where the ghetto became a mythical landscape, and pride and sorrow co-existed. Within a well-documented time when East Coast vs West Coast, Biggie vs Tupac gangster tropes reigned in rap's forefront, the Fugees emerged like a white flag - a welcomed eclectic postmodern realm, blending hip-hop, reggae, R&B influences and live instrumentation to form the base for their unyielding opus. In concept and delivery, singles like 'Fu-Gee-La,' 'How Many Mics,' 'Ready or Not' and the forever poignant Roberta Flack cover, 'Killing Me Softly' are timeless.

The Score, one of the first alternative hip-hop albums from the '90s to cross over into the mainstream, would be the first and last bit of success for the Fugees as a unit. By the end of the year, Tupac was killed, Biggie shortly after and acrimonious tension forged from solo projects led to the group's eventual disbandment. Yet, fast-forward twenty years and Lauryn's vocals still tase, Wyclef’s charismatic imaginative raps astound and Pras’ under-appreciated bulky bars resonate.

Co-executive producer, Jerry Wonda sits in his New York studio 20 years later. Platinum Sound Recording Studios is nothing like the Booga Basement where he used to compose; his respected resume and Rolodex a whole lot different as well. It's been 20 years since The Score first kick-started the Grammy-winning producer's extended career and the experience is one difficult to forget.

You worked on The Score in your father's basement. Booga basement was the studio where the magic happened while you were living with Wyclef. To start things off, what did that basement look and feel like that set the scene for the album's inception?

The Booga basement was my father's house. Wyclef's mom and my dad are brother and sister so me and Wyclef, we grew up together. We lived together. The dad gave us the basement and I really built the Booga with little pieces of equipment. That was one of the things that I've done. When we got the basement, Pras wasn’t even in the there and at the time, Ms. Hill was doing Sister Act. So it was Motown and hip-hop in New Jersey. It was very magical. Everyone knew you report to Booga. That was the whole thing. I was there cooking the beat and me and Clef were chopping up samples with Ms. Hill and Pras was there doing his thing. There were so many talented people. It was a place where everyone had so much talent, but nobody cared.

It sounded like a hub for talent and culture and community.

Exactly. The musicians, the rappers, the singers, we had culture music. Everyone used to be in one spot – Jamaicans, Haitians, Americans, all of that. That's what the basement was. Every kind of music.

And you can hear that obviously in the album. It's so filled with culture and a blending and merging of genres and sounds and artforms. That really comes through. What is your greatest memory of the recording process?

The most important thing to me and the process that I live by is the process of being in the room. I use the word sonic, how every sound, when we didn't have it, we had to make things work with a sampler. How until today, one of my favourite beat tools that we used was a piece called SP-1200. It was really really good to use that equipment at the time. And just how we went about it. We didn't care about creating a single. It was all about creating music. I didn't know we were creating a classic record until later on. It's something that I can never forget.

What is your definition of a classic album? Nowadays, so much seems easily replaced and longevity is limited.

A classic album is when the fans and the people, the music-lovers feel every song. On The Score, everybody has their own songs that touch them. Still today, people say, "I want that sound." The songs, they were very special. Even when we were doing them, vocally, there are things that get your skin cooking. Just like when you put a certain spice in your food, The Score has that. It's a platform everyone's using, because they're like, "Okay, we're doing hip-hop. I'm going to chop up these drums. I'm going to put in this bass-line and these chords, we're going to put melody, a grid-hook, and the turntables. SP-1200 with the live drums." Melodically, it's when country people like it, rock people like it, soul people like it, hip-hop loves it. They love the concept of the Fugees. It's such a good platform for the new artists today. That's classic.

You've obviously done so much in your career since. You're a legend in your own right. But you previously called your experience working on The Score "the foundation for everything you're doing right now." So what are the biggest lessons you took from the experience, considering it happened so early on in your career?

I just learned to appreciate the music. One thing, at the time when we did it, I didn’t know. When you don't know, you just go with it. It wasn't just about singles. Until today, I'm following that same platform that I used. If I'm working with Mary J Blige or Aretha Franklin or Estelle or Jennifer Hudson and all these people over the years, it's because of the Fugees. Because of that, I was able to do work with Whitney and Carlos Santana. It's still the same platform. People are still coming to me and asking for that platform. I really appreciate that I'm still around.

You mentioned previously that The Score is one of the templates for a lot of music from R&B, hip-hop and just pop music in general. What are your thoughts on the current landscape of R&B and hip-hop 20 years after this album and how has that influenced your involvement on your current projects now?

I feel like The Score was one of the hip-hop albums that was melodic in the grid-hook and it's great concepts. A lot of albums I listen to today, a lot of them last a year, after that, they're gone. The Score is an album you can put on today and still really listen to it. But people know now that you have to sing a hook. We started that trend.

When you listen to the project, what is your personal gift that you're proud you got to deliver?

Grid-based lines. I'm a sound guy with 80,000 snares and 200,000 kicks and chopped up things. To me, that's one thing I can never forget. With the music and the production, that album was really special. And it was special for everyone. I'm really proud that I can go back 20 years with that album and I've been doing this at least 25 years, I've been doing production. I've seen so many people that have come in and got famous quick and disappeared but I'm still here. I'm still doing what I love.