RATING: 10/10 CHET BAKERS
I first heard this album several years after it dropped, and it has stayed with me ever since. Wyclef first came to fame in the legendary hip hop group The Fugees (with Pras and Lauryn Hill), and The Carnival is his first solo effort.
Often when you have someone who's known as being part of a group, when they branch out on their own, they just don't seem to have the same quality of music when it's just them. The same can be said for some artists who are known as "guest appearance" type of rappers or singers, such as Nate Dogg. Nate Dogg is a fantastic singer, and has been on some classic west coast tracks. I'm a huge fan of Nate Dogg as well, but facts are facts, and his albums are not very good, save for a few tracks on each.
That's not the case with Wyclef Jean's debut solo album "The Carnival". This album is full of colorful tales of women, music and the culture of his native Haiti. While there are many interludes on here, they never really feel like "filler" which is not able to be said about many hip hop albums.
It helps that in many of the interludes, there is the comedian "Talent", who you may recall as the wise cracking Butters from the 90's basketball comedy "Sunset Park", as the prosecuting attorney going after Wyclef.
The entire album is a concept album, in which Wyclef is on trial for being "a Player" and an all around nuisance to women, children and the easily offended.
Standout tracks include the singles "Gone til November", about a man singing a song to his girlfriend about him having to do time, and that he'll be away from her for awhile, "Sang Fezi" which Wyclef raps in his native language, and Lauryn Hill guests with a short on point chorus:
Then you should know
That one day we are gone
So keep your head to the sky
See the path we refuse is the path we should choose
They wont take the world when you die
And the powerful song "Gunpowder" which has Wyclef singing lyrics such as:
I asked my mother why do you cry
She said your brother he just died
Well I told him not to go outside
He said he had to fight for his country's right
But don't you know that mother
Don't you know that we can't stop the violence, no
Because the war is not over
Until you can feel love, peace, and hear silence
But I smell gunpowder
The interludes are often very funny, whether it's bringing back "Down Lo Ho" from the Fugee's "The Score" album as he demonstrates his "Dragon Style" in court, or the brilliant "Killer MC" in which Wyclef interviews a rapper who claims to have killed an incredible amount of people, but when pressed on the details, he just has "um..." and "you know..." to which Wyclef brilliantly sums up, "Exactly. Don't believe the hype", punching out at the rappers that build up their careers and images based on supposed violent pasts, when often they are just fabrications.
All in all, this is a brilliant album, and Chris Rock listed it as #16 on his Top 25 Hip Hop Albums of All Time.
Word of advice though, Skip Carnival II. The one with "Sweetest Girl". It's 90% trash. It's a complete 180 degrees from the intelligent music found in this album, and seemed to embrace the Lil Wayne/Akon type of hip hop music, rather than what made this album so great.
This album, however, gets a perfect 10 rating from me. Perfect in every way. A certified classic album!