Wyclef Jean is one third of the multi-platinum hip hop group The Fugee's, the man who won the world's critical acclaim with the diverse and eclectic debut album 'The Carnival', who then went on to storm charts with collaborations with pop icons Whitney Houston and Carlos Santana, whilst at the same time delivering two much slept on follow up albums 'The Ecleftic' and 'Masquerade' but which brought the worlds clubs and radio stations favourites such as '911' with Mary J Blidge, 'It Doesn't Matter' with The Rock and 'Two Wrongs' with Claudette Ortiz of City High. Alongside this extremely busy four to six years he has toured the world continuously, taking his New York block party style showcase of talent to cities far and wide.
Now sees the release of 'The Preacher's Son', his first album on newly formed record label J Records which is headed by music industry heavy weight Clive Davis, who has brought to our ears the likes of Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston and many more. It was the departure of Davis from his former company Arista Records that many suggest to have been the catalyst for the demise of soul diva Houston's music career, which had relied upon Davis's expertise and father figure advice and guidance as an executive producer. This speculative gossip is given backing by the album in discussion, the most mature and focused collection of songs Jean has delivered since his involvement on the early 90's album 'Blunted On Reality' which introduced multi-Grammy winning Lauryn Hill, rapper turned actor Pras and himself to the world.
'The Preacher's Son' begins with the track 'Industry', the first street single of the set. Over a typical hip-hop beat accompanied with well placed sampling and scratching Jean talks about the art form of rap being a reflection of the reality it's artists see. He goes on in typical John Lennon fashion, imagining what it would be like had Biggy Smalls and Tupac Shakur not been shot to death and Princess Diana not been killed in a highway pursuit. What's most striking about the track is the way in which the narrative is being told to the listener. It's not in the typical hip-hop fashion of rhyming and rapping, nor is it the conventional sense of singing. Here Jean seems to have found a way in which he can do both at the same time and it's this style that he continues with throughout much of the album. An observation which will satisfy many critics of his earlier work who have bashed his rapping as being far from capable and his singing as sounding desperate.
The second track is a collaboration with hip-hop icon Missy Elliot called 'Party To Damascus'. On the extremely catchy and potentially commercially successful song, Wyclef plays a guitar riff that if played in your average nightclub, would turn the crowds wild. The inclusion of the track, besides from being present to use as the main promotional push of the album, goes to show that Jean is more than capable of catering to the contemporary pop music scene and can do so with ease. This is however the only mainstream targeting song which if is the reason for a customer buying this album, will leave them feeling a little cheated if the more artistic and creative tracks that follow aren't to their chart loving taste.
Things get more serious with the Patti Labelle featuring track 'Celebrate' which is full of reminiscing images of old skool barbecue's and Sunday morning church services, a track featuring rapper Redman exploring the feelings of the modern day society's step father and the Carlos Santana blessed 'Three Nights In Rio' a remarkably Latin flavoured song which grows on the listener with each listen, giving them nothing short of outstanding percussion, bass and guitar. Its tracks of this vein that resulted in Jean's first solo adventure being considered a near masterpiece, for the ability to travel to different locations and cultures of the world through sound.
One of the few tracks not to feature a high profile musician is the midway point's 'Baby'. Here in a high-pitched voice not often used by Jean, we hear a first person love story. Whilst songs of a similar idea have in the past left his public wondering if he's trying a little too hard to impress and gain credit, here Jean seems to hit the right spots, coming off as humble, talented, capable and aware of his artistic freedom. The following track 'I Am Your Doctor' which features the season's favourites 'Elephant Man and Wayne Wonder hits the right spot too, combining mellow paced reggae with a faster tempo dance hall flavour. The perhaps simple lyrical idea of a 'Doctor Love' with 'spoons full of friendship' being made up for with the sensual drum clapping rhythm and mild guitar strums.
The final selection of tracks on the album continues the mature and focused nature which Wyclef has developed throughout the years and has finally become comfortable with. In a noble and admirable manor he expresses his gratitude for his comfortable and successful life on 'Grateful', in a reflective and political vibe he talks about repentance and the after live on 'Next Generation', on 'Rebel Music' a gloomy view of society is contrasted with an uplifting and optimistic chorus whilst 'Who Gave The Order' with Buju Banton questions international conflicts and the causes behind them, echoing the socially conscious sentiments which Wyclef has expressed from his very beginnings as a musician.
Whilst this album could easily go over the heads of much of the present days young and fad following chart consumer, those who look for that little bit more class and integrity will find everything they could possibly want in this product. Perhaps the only downfall of the album is that it's so good that it won't sell enough copies to keep record executives happy. Fans can be assured however, that Wyclef Jean is a bigger artist than any unsatisfied business opinion and that a 'Preachers Son; Volume Two' is sure to arrive soon, on this new label or the next.