Obviously today, December 4th, starts a make it or break it period for all urban acts and major record labels that are slated to release albums in this fourth quarter. It could become a tax write-off season, or a watershed moment for the business, when hip-hop acts prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can still move units without resorting to 50 Cent-type tactics. We’ll see.
While there’s been a shitload of internet hype surrounding Ghostface’s new project, as well as DJ Drama’s, and even to a further extent Scarface’s return to rap, I haven’t heard anyone say shit about Wyclef’s new joint, Carnival 2: Memoirs of an Immigrant. And that’s sad, because Clef probably delivered one of the more solid projects I’ve heard in a long time. Not necessarily solid from an all-consuming hip-hop standpoint, but definitely from a musical one. And while one could argue Clef’s been out of his prime as a rapper for some time now (was he ever in his prime?), I can say with a straight face that I’ve always appreciated Clef for the sheer musicianship he displays on his albums. Him and his consortium of producers- Jerry Wonder, Sedeck, Lil Wonder- always deliver projects that are very polished, very creative, and usually a step ahead of everyone else both conceptually and musically.
He’s got a gang of guests on the album, not that shit like that matters in a day and age when your favorite DJs (I see you Khaled, Drama, and Felli Fell) are releasing 7-minute songs and remixes every two weeks with fifteen rappers on them. What matters is making hot records with the features you have, and Clef manages to pull that off. “Sweetest Girl” is one of the best usages of two most overused artists in the music business- Lil Wayne and Akon- and joints like “Fast Car,” with Paul Simon, and “Slow Down,” with TI, are also great records as well. They’re acoustic, but knock like hip-hop records at the same time.
When I interviewed Clef for the Scratch cover story back in the summer time (you remember, the one where he said Lauryn tried to get him for his credit on some records he produced for John Legend), he was still polishing up the project, but I could tell from that early listen that it was a diverse collection of sounds he was going for. He had that Bollywood shit, that Soca shit, that hip-hop shit, that southern shit, that acoustic soul shit. It was really an expansive album.
I suggest everyone go pick it up. You don’t gotta be a real hardcore hip-hop head to appreciate Clef’s stuff. You just gotta like and appreciate good music.