On this day, June 24, in hip-hop history…
1997: Sixteen months removed from the Fugees final and wildly successful project, The Score, creative mastermind, Wyclef Jean, made his determined and unaccompanied leap into solo recording with the release of his debut album, Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival.
Fresh off the propulsion of the Fugees collective achievements, the Haitian-born and New York/New Jersey raised Wyclef approached his initial solo effort as an introductory canvas for not only his multi-faceted talents with instrumentation, but also his dexterity for production in fusing an array of cross-cultured musical influences into one unified and prosperous sound. Integrating a multitude of genres within the album, Wyclef ‘s resourcefulness was on full display, as The Carnival is deeply rooted with hints of everything from Reggae, Creole, Salsa and Disco, to Hip-Hop, Funk, and R&B.
Although proving to be more than capable of thriving as his own artist separate from the Fugees, Wyclef seemingly demonstrates an insistence for validation throughout The Carnival. Demonstrated on the second track, ‘Apocalypse’, Jean professes, “I’m back with lightning and thunder, I heard you over saying that I’m a one-hit wonder.” In an impassioned attempt to garner recognition for the entirety of his musical capacity, Wyclef successfully navigates the twenty-four track (eight of which are interludes or skits) album, primarily focusing on the proficiency of its production.
Vastly colorful and carrying a tranquil island-esque theme throughout it, The Carnival was met with extreme success upon its release. With features ranging from his Fugees counterparts in Lauryn Hill and Pras Michel, to The Neville Brothers and Salsa legend Celia Cruz, the album peaked at sixteen on the Billboard 200, and also generated two singles (‘Gone till November’, ‘We Trying To Stay Alive’) that reached the top fifty of the Billboard Hot 100. The Carnivalamassed three Grammy nominations in total, ended up selling over five million copies worldwide, and was ultimately certified double platinum.
While his work with the Fugees is what familiarized the masses with Wyclef’s musical presence, it was The Carnival that materialized that presence into a lasting individualistic prominence. - Michael Blair