Oooh la la la, indeed… Neru Thee Fourth Fugee is back and gearing up for a new album, while also making room for some hair modeling and plenty of other nifty projects aside.
“End Daze” – Neru Thee Fourth Fugee
A band like the Fugees— who absolutely dominated the musical landscape for about two years in the mid-90s; sold 20 million-plus copies of 1996’s landmark, The Score; and then completely disappeared, never to release any new music together at all— inevitably inspires a lot of “What Ifs.”
What if, at some point in the last 27 years, they’d decided the time was right to finally put out another album?
What if Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill hadn’t let their personal affairs get in the way of their undeniable creative chemistry?
What if one of these rare reunion shows that they’ve occasionally had actually materialized into some new studio recordings?
And here’s another tantalizing What If: What if there had been a fourth member of this famed trio? Could they have helped the other members resolve their inner conflicts and get back to making music? And what would the Fugees sound like if there were four of them instead of three, anyways?
While we’ll almost certainly never know, one fan of the band who’s toyed considerably with that idea is Angel Mooring, who once performed as Neru Isis but now has actually rebranded herself as Neru Thee Fourth Fugee. The Baltimore native first entered the scene with 2014’s Enlightenment Era, and then, after quite a hiatus, returned for Round II in 2020 with The Almanac. Her next album, Greater Than, is scheduled for release later this year and has been promoted by lead single, “End Daze,” a fiery collaboration with fellow female flow queen BbyMutha.
Additionally, Neru has founded her own label, AstroKnot Collective, which has been described as “a staple in the city’s creative arts scene.” She’s also done a fair amount of touring and has shared the stage with some hip-hop masters such as The Roots, Danny Brown, Oddisee, Princess Nokia, and JPEGMafia. In an interview with Atwood Magazine, she shares what it’s like to fashion such a strong artistic identity, all while paying homage to her beloved hometown of Baltimore and the long-dormant rap titans the Fugees the whole while.
A CONVERSATION WITH NERU THEE FOURTH FUGEE
Atwood Magazine: As a Baltimore native, how has the music and performing arts scene there influenced your own creative output?
Neru Thee Fourth Fugee: I love Baltimore. It’s truly my home but it comes with its challenges. There aren’t many well-known publications, media hubs, labels etc. and a lot of times when you find establishments that could be helpful, there’s a lot of politics. This forced me to branch out to other cities and circuits like New York, DC, LA, Detroit, Philly, etc. I’ve accomplished so much in Baltimore from creating my own creative community, curating hair shows, community building, mentoring aspiring artists and even acquired a multi-use art studio to continue my community efforts.
Ironically, I receive more industry and overall media support in other cities and sometimes countries. Baltimore can also be very stagnant, oppressive and heavy. This has built so much strength and character while pushing me to want more.
Since you refer to yourself as ''the Fourth Fugee,'' I'm curious— what has your relationship to the Fugees' music been like over the years? What does it signify to be considered the self-declared fourth member of this famed trio?
Neru Thee Fourth Fugee: What’s funny about this question is that I’ve had a lot of internal dialogue about how I believe would be the best way to present myself. You can find music and publications under many old aliases such as Neru Isis and even a very, very rare project as “Thee Fourth Fugee.” You would assume [that name] came from Lauryn Hill, but I actually heard it being referenced in an Ab-Soul song years ago.
Lauryn Hill has always been a big influence to me. I identify with the title Thee Fourth Fugee because of my ability as both a songstress and lyricist. I met Ab-Soul in 2014 and he actually co-signed my name; it’s been history [ever] since.
There was quite a gap between your first album, Enlightenment Era (2014), and its follow-up, The Almanac (2020). What did you get up to in the interim? Did you work on redefining your style at all in the process?
Neru Thee Fourth Fugee: In between the two projects, Enlightenment Era and The Almanac, I was touring, curating shows, modeling, creating music, cultivating industry connections, leading and creating opportunities for other artists, all while managing my own personal career. I don’t have any big label budgets or backing, [and] I don’t have any big sponsors, co-signs or distribution. It takes a bit longer to roll out self-funded albums and projects on the level that I’m operating [at,] which explains the gap. Soon, I’m hoping this will all be the least of my worries.
What about your upcoming album, Greater Than? What's the process of making it been like? What are you hoping to deliver to fans by the time the finished project comes out this summer?
Neru Thee Fourth Fugee: Greater Than is an accumulation of thoughts, sounds and feelings that I’ve experienced throughout the last few years. Some of the records you will hear on this album were birthed between 2015 and 2023. I recorded these songs in Baltimore, LA and even NY, so there is a lot of energy and sentiment attached to each composition. My next album, “>”, will be my breakout album. With features from Wu Tang’s Killah Priest, Metaphor The Great and BbyMutha, I’m positive that this project will be a great milestone for my career. You can expect to see a lot of growth within myself as an artist and even some new elements that I’ve picked up along the way. This project will be an exclusive look into who I am now, some of my experiences and some of the things I’ve overcome.
How does the lead single ''End Daze'' serve as an introduction to the rest of the album? What was the end result of collaborating with bbymutha on this track?
Neru Thee Fourth Fugee: “End Daze” is a great lead to the full project because it gives viewers a sneak peek of what and who to expect on the full album later this year. The Almanac LP was composed of seven album tracks, with two special bonus tracks featuring the likes of ill Camille and DEETRANADA. Leading my next project with this single acts as an assistant to usher my way fully into the industry. Working with BbyMutha is undoubtedly one of my favorite moments in my career. Since the single has been release, I’ve been covered by a multitude of different platforms such as Landon Buford, Global Grind, Rinse France and Billboard, just to name a few.
As founder of AstroKnot Collective, how do you interact with the members of that label? What have been some of the major payoffs of leading such an initiative?
Neru Thee Fourth Fugee: As the founder of such an amazing conglomerate, I act as a mentor and manager for the collective and the individual artists. Our artists range from music to visual artists, designers, models and everything in between. I’ve been able to continue to enrich the arts and community through my music and activism work.
I’ve also succeeded in guiding and creating opportunities consistently for youth in the city. I’ve recently acquired a multi-use art studio for my collective, in which we conduct a bulk of our shows, workshops, knowledge exchanges, community efforts, drives and more. We’ve enrolled some new youth to AstroKnot Collective and are focused on providing the tools needed for them to succeed.
You've shared the stage with quite a few hip-hop heavyweights, it seems. What have been some of your personal favorite onstage collabs? Anyone you're hoping to pair up with next?
Neru Thee Fourth Fugee: Performing next to Princess Nokia would have to be one of my favorite experiences. Her music and audience were so supportive and accepting. [It] really reflected her energy as a whole. Earthgang also has very high energy and I felt we complimented each other performing on the same score. I’d love to act as support for BkTheRula, J.I.D., Mereba, Smino etc. I think I can pair well with almost anyone, since my music is pretty adaptable.
Anything more you'd like to share with your fans and readers?
Neru Thee Fourth Fugee: I just really appreciate the patience and support. I’ll be releasing a full album later this year and will be announcing tour dates shortly.
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