Friday, December 14, 2007

Wyclef Jean Makes a Strong Return with Carnival Vol. 2

No one should doubt that Wyclef Jean is on top of his game. His latest album Carnival Vol 2: Memoirs of an Immigrant does not only satisfy his loyal Caribbean fans but also goes back to his Fugees roots while demonstrating his command on a variety of styles. Musically and lyrically Wyclef Jean demands to be heard.


"Riot" starts with an electric guitar riff that meets his rapping styling head on. This is perfect for the times, as it seems like we are in a very tenuous state with the war, state of the economy, and socio-cultural issues that plague the United States. "Riot" will appeal to all types of music lovers.

Wyclef's first single released from the album had me at the first beat then he went and put Lil' Wayne on the album and I was done. The catchy chorus sung by Akon is one that cannot be denied. Everyone knows about the struggles with cash flow especially right now. Even still, he appeals to people struggling to make ends meet with a catchy beat that people can move their feet to in a club.

The next Fugees joint ...Oh my bad. Seriously, it could have been a Fugees joint. I could easily hear Pras and Lauren laying down a few bars to "Welcome to the East." It has a crazy laid back beat.

T.I. is taking about "Slow Down" and it almost seems like a sure bet that he recorded this after his possession charge debacle. Lyrically, this is a joint to pay attention to. The strings on this cut are sensational in their pseudo-simplicity.

Admittedly, "King & Queen" did nothing to impress until Shakira's vocals. The contrast of her sultry singing to Clef's hyped reggae beat created an intriguing blend of styles that makes this joint likable, even if it is not one of the favorites.

It is almost wrong to get your groove on to "Fast Car." He alludes Left Eye's tragic death and paints sad pictures that happen everyday. However, Paul Simon's accompaniment and the hot beat, especially during the chorus, make it difficult not to do a head bop here and there.

Wyclef and Mary J. Blige meet back up on "What About the Baby." Until Clef hit that chorus, "What about the Baby" almost seemed like it was going to be a regular joint. It's like he has to struggle vocally in order for it to be a hit. Then Mary J. joins in and lets listeners know that relationships are tough to work out even with the best intentions. This track is definitely worth the wait.

Ever since Punjabi MC collaborated with Jay-Z, I have had an affinity towards Indian music. "Hollywood Meets Bollywood (Immigration)" is full of fast tempo beats that could prove useful for a great aerobic workout.

Slowing down the pace but not affecting the quality is "Any Other Day" with Norah Jones. Again, the strings are beautifully composed to compliment her voice and style.

"Heaven's In New York" seems like a lyrical revisit of "If I was President." It has that reggae flavor in the background with Wyclef's vocals lending to a contemplative mind frame. This is one of those songs that a person can just close her eyes and enjoy.

Put on your dancing shoes as Wyclef connects directly with the Latin music world with "Selena." The bridge is a carnival jam where he shouts out to everyone that simply wants to get his or her groove on.

Lastly, Clef takes listeners on a 13 minute carnival trip that starts off with signature Will.I.Am pop tempo and ends with a call for peace in Haiti and worldwide. This is a get your party on jam for about the first seven minutes before it moves into a slower groove. Like his first album, Wyclef opens the gateway to not only Haitian music but also Caribbean music all together.

There are two bonus tracks of a "Slow Down" performance without T.I. It is a really enjoyable version of the track. The second bonus is a performance of "Selena."

If there are stars to give Wyclef Jean gets all five. If there's a grade requirement, he gets an A+. Lyrically, Wyclef does not stick to what's popular but tackles some poignant, time appropriate issues. Musically he demonstrates his versatility and willingness to test the limits within the confines of a commercial album.
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