Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: a hip-hop group moves a truckload of units, its members take the solo route and – despite finding their own individual success – never find the achievements they received together.
In 1994 a little-known group from New Jersey known as The Fugees released a little-known album called Blunted On Reality that, despite a notable single or two, sold triple frankincense. Two years later the group drops The Score to the tune of almost 20 million copies, a plethora of awards and immense critical acclaim. Amidst the Grammy’s, magazine covers and world tours, front man Wyclef Jean released his first solo album, The Carnival, in 1997. However, still-undisclosed (and at times highly confusing) events occurred; Fugee mantelpiece Lauryn Hill received even more acclaim and couldn’t handle it, infamously deteriorating in the years to come. Although Wyclef has become and increasingly in-demand producer, he has seen his album sales drop and Pras… where is Pras anyway?
Despite the random “reunion” concerts and all the talk of a never-gonna happen album, Wyclef has kept himself busy for the past few years, most noticeably giving apple-bottomed chanteuse Shakira a major hit with Hips Don’t Lie, trying to give the Yin Yang Twins their groove back and most recently working with T.I.. Now after a three-year hiatus he returns to his solo status with the sequel to The Carnival, subtitled Memoirs of an Immigrant.
Similar to its predecessor, Memoirs attempts to bridge many musical styles together, and the results are surprisingly cohesive. After getting off to a great start with the rock/reggae hybrid Riot, featuring Sizzla, and System Of A Down front man Serj Tankia. Sizzla backs him up again on the funky Welcome To The East, a dancehall number with a dope flip of Blahzay Blahzay‘s classic Danger! (When The East Is In The House).
What makes Carnival II so compelling is that it strays from the flaccid, oft-used staples that defines today’s rap releases with artists from various musical genres peppered throughout. Melissa Jiménez provides a Latin ting to Selena, Norah Jones provides her trademark bluesy/folk stylings to Any Other Day and Shakira returns for the trippy King And Queen. The crème of the crop however is the 14-minute mish-mashed jam Touch Your Button Carnival Jam, which includes Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am, Trini legend Machel Montano, samba goddess Daniela Mercury and dancehall icon Shabba Ranks.
It’s actually when he doesn’t try anything different is when the album falters. With his recent troubles with the law, T.I.’s appearance on Slow Down comes off as hypocritical, and What About The Baby with Mary J Blige is nothing more than a shoddy sequel to 911. Even the lead single Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill) feels like an attempt to cash in on the popularity of today’s current pop darlings Akon and Lil Wayne.
While Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant is definitely no Score, it’s a decent follow-up that continues Wyclef’s winning streak. Hopefully soon fans will get that long-awaited Fugees album in the New Year.
0 Readers Joined the Discussion