The commingling of flavors (hip-hop, reggae, soul, R&B and pop) that were prevalent on The Carnival transformed Wyclef Jean into one of the music industries most sought after producers; and lead to subsequent work with Destiny’s Child and luminaries such as Carlos Santana, and Whitney Houston. Clef’s sophomore LP, Ecleftic, was a direct result of that cross-genre success, as the now superstar continued to flaunt his versatile nature, but in a more corporate setting; exemplified by his god-awful collaboration (“It Doesn’t Matter”) with former WWF and now Action hero The Rock, which bordered on the ridiculous.
Since his brilliant debut, Wyclef has been fighting a losing battle to suppress the Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde personality that manifests thru his music; a trend that continues with Masquerade. Similar to Ecleftic, Masquerade is a tale of two soundtracks, as a repetitive slew of compromising, radio formulated material (“Two Wrongs” f/ Claudette (Of City High) , “Pussycat” f/Tom Jones and “You Say Keep It Gangsta” f/Butch Cassidy & Sharissa) clash violently with moving acoustic efforts “Daddy” and “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”.
Though Clef’s commercial/crossover whims are again a detriment and prevent any lasting continuity. The steam that Masquerade generates resides largely in acoustic efforts; simply when its just Clef and his guitar, hope springs eternal, exemplified by the tender ode to his departed father, “Daddy” (“I wish I was in the Sixth Sense/so I could see dead people”) and the stop the violence pleas of “Knocking On Heavens Door”, where Clef implements an urban twist to Bob Dylan’s folk-classic by paying homage to some of hip-hop’s fallen legends.
While Clef may have lost his edge on Ecleftic, he regains some of his lagging street-credibility on Masquerade. Though Clef has swayed somewhat from his Fugee origins, he re-animates those roots on, “Masquerade”, which features stellar cameos from M.O.P. and Freddie Foxxx, the lyrical exercise “80 Bars” and the oriental seasoned “Peace God”.
Clef is a wunderkind at generating radio-friendly hits. Yet, since his debut, the natural crossover aspect of his music has waned with each perspective endeavor. And while Clef is a multi-talented musician who transcends genres, just who is the “real” Wyclef Jean? Is he the mastermind behind The Fugees’ classic The Score, or his own defining effort The Carnival? Or is he merely satisfied by following trends and looking for a quick “hit” fix? Whatever the case, Masquerade could not be more aptly titled, as it does not mask the fact that Clef is wasting his very unique talents. Will the real Wyclef Jean please stand up?
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