1 January, 2000@12:00 am
Though The Fugees, The Score, sold 11-million records, and catapulted two its erstwhile members to superstardom, Wyclef Jean has nevertheless managed to redefine himself as a solo-artist.
Similar to its classic predecessor, The Carnival, Clef’s quest to disassociate himself from traditional hip-hop parameters is freshly anewed with his subtle sophomore LP Ecleftic. With oft-times nothing more then his trusted/lethal guitar acting as a catalyst, Clef continues too strum out hip-hop’s rigid barriers by offering a diverse range of lyrical, and musical styles. After all, who could convincingly transition from the next stripping anthem in waiting, “Perfect Gentleman”, to an impassioned, reggae-tinged dedication too “Diallo” feat. Youssou N’Dour. While Ecleftic’s centerpieces evolve around Clef’s acoustical overtures, “911″ feat. Mary J. Blige, and his ode to Mary Jane “Something About Mary”. The LP’s most transcendent moment occurs on the odd, yet ingenuous, merging of country/hip-hop “Kenny Rogers-Pharoahe Monche Dub Plate”; when you hear Kenny crooning “The Gambler” over the power-chords of Pharaohe Monch’s “Simon Says” it is enough too make anyone want too get the fuck up.
Yet, unlike The Carnival, Clef’s sound boy burials do not kill softly this go-round. Rather, after growing weary of fielding questions about the Fugee’s status, and Lauryn Hill’s thinly-veiled disses, Clef exorcises some demons of his own with “Where Fugees At?”. While lines like— “All I hear is Fugee this/Fugee that/I need Fugee’s to spit up on this track/Lauryn if you’re listening/Pras if your listening/give me a call I’m in the lab at the Booga basement”, seems too open the door for a possible reunion. Clef then simultaneously closes that door by scalding Pras “you’re rhyming off beat even with help from my metronome”, and educating Lauryn— “you’re wicked stop lying to the public/you wanted it so bad you took all the production credit/baby girl look in the opposite direction/cause my class is the miseducation”. Clef also calls out former protegee Canibus with the tribal “However You Want It”—”I used to read the gospel/until I got betrayed by one of my twelve disciples/which one/look thru the crowd son/you can spot the traitor with a tattoo on his arm/his symbol is a microphone/an intellectual/a wanna be Rakim but too extraterrestrial”.
Though Clef is a wunderkind at generating radio-friendly hits (evidenced by his work with The Fugees, Destiny’s Child, and Whitney Houston), Ecleftic’s obvious crossover attempts “It Doesn’t Matter” feat The Rock, and “Thug Angels”, are neither as compelling, or pack the immediate gratification of past hits “We Trying Too Stay Alive”, and “Gone Till November”. Likewise, a few of Ecleftic’s compositions (most notably on the second side of the disc), are minimally constructed drum and bass tracks that are more generic then genre-bending.
While Clef has carved out his niche by blurring the fine line between R&B, and hip-hop. His shifting, and progressive nature communicates something deeper, as this multi-talented musician underlines that hip-hop can be both melodious and distinctive. Though not as conceptually engaging as its predecessor, The Ecleftic is an enthralling multi-cultural endeavor that easily separates itself, and Clef from the pack.
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