The Carnival Featuring Refugee All-stars

Wyclef Jean

Columbia Records, 1997

http://www.wyclef.com

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/02/1998

Before making The Carnival, Wyclef Jean said he wanted to be the Mozart of rap. A fairly bold statement, but Jean has always aimed a tad higher than most of his rap peers. While east and west coast rappers try and top each other, Jean is more interested in world domination. With an awesome band of production, clever lyrical hooks, guest vocals and even his guitar, Jean lives up to his potential in The Carnival.

Unless you're incredibly white, you alread know that Wyclef is one of the members of The Fugees, who struck big with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Score in 1996. They were one of the few bands who shunned gangsta rap but at the same time, embraced the leaders of the genre, including Dr. Dre, Tupac and Biggie Smalls. In The Score as well as The Carnival, Wyclef wasn't above playing out the playa fantesy with tales of revenge and vengence.

Wyclef's strong ties to Hatian culture as well as Lauren Hill's world-wise voice gives him a depth that is hard to find in the rap or even rock world today. In The Carnival, Wyclef comes into his own as a total original. The album also shows how great of a role he plays in the Fugees sound, even though Hill and third member, Prakazrel "Praz" Michel serve as co-executive producers to The Carnival.

The Carnival is a concept album, in the weakest tense. It opens with a court hearing, with Wyclef being accused of being a revolutionary as well as a player. The evidence:over 20 tracks of phat tracks. The first half of the album is a stunning testament of Wyclef's skills. Pensive ballads ("To All The Girls", "Gone Till November") and streetwise tales like "Bubblegoose" and "Anything Can Happen" seem to be spaced out in perfect harmony in this exotic Hatian like atmosphere.

Still, 70 minutes plus is a lot of material to digest. Like other musical greats such as Sting and even Rush, you tend to look more at their work in awe at their musical accomplishments, where they may be lacking in soul. In The Carnival, Wyclef uses third world beats, west coast funk, rock and reggae.

Celebration is the lifeblood to The Carnival though. And judging by the 2-hour-plus releases of rap artists last year, 70 minutes seems like a damn featherweight contender. By sampling the palatte of so many musical styles, Wyclef created one of the most rewarding listens of 1996. Unlike many artists who release solo albums, The Carnival is quite vital and will stand on its own merits no matter what happens with the Fugees. Get some culture, pick it up.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.