Wyclef Jean

The Carnival  Hear it Now

RS: 0of 5 Stars


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When the Fugees LP "the Score" burst on the scene a year and a half àgo, they opened up hip-hop's narrowing worldview with infectioús musicality and anti-gangsta, positive vibrations. On his new solo effort, The Carnival, guitarist and producer Wyclef Jean – arguably the brains behind The Score – is out to prove that he is "not only a player but a goddamn revolutionary." As the Fugees' recent wildly successful shows in Haiti proved, Wyclef Jean is pushing hip-hop into an international, multicultural milieu by mining his Caribbean roots.

For Wyclef and his native culture, the carnival is a place where "anything can happen." As proof, this LP – featuring "Refugee Allstars" Lauryn Hill, Prakazrel "Pras" Michel, John Forte and Melky Sedeck – offers cinematic moments on the mean streets of Brooklyn ("Year of the Dragon") and slow-and-low, Pharcyde-ish booty baiting ("To All the Girls") alongside an appearance by New Orleans veterans Neville Brothers ("Mona Lisa"). The Carnival also dips into the pool of pop history on sure-fire summer jams such as "We Trying to Stay Alive" (think the Bee Gees in da hood) and the Latin standard "Guantanamera" (which could revive salsa queen Celia Cruz's career yet again). The album's island-flavored Creole-lyric tunes, "Jaspora" and "Yelé" – both of which have been hits in Haiti – rock with polyrhythmic authority as well.

The Carnival's most stunning moment, though, is "Gunpowder." Wyclef becomes Bob Marley reincarnate, crooning, "We can't stop the violence/Because the war is not over/Until you can feel love, peace in your silence," with an I-Threes chorus wailing in the background. If that isn't an original hip-hop voice, what is? (RS 764/765)


(Posted: Jun 26, 1997)


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