Midway through his fourth solo CD, The Preacher's Son, Wyclef Jean takes the time to announce, "I'm a young man with an old man's soul."

He has a valid point. Amongst his hip-hop peers, Jean has a rare ability to celebrate the past while maintaining a modern vibe, to conduct musical history lessons and frame them in the most au courant beats. Consider the fact that when he brings in Patti LaBelle and Carlos Santana for cameos on this album, they don't make him sound retro, he makes them sound contemporary.

As always, Jean enthusiastically assumes the role of a hip-hop goodwill ambassador. It's hard to think of another disc that pays lyrical tribute to more hip-hop icons: Method Man, Tupac, Biggie, Jam Master Jay, Eminem, Jay-Z, and


The Preacher's Son
Wyclef Jean
Missy Elliott (Jean's collaborator on the boisterous single "Party to Damascus"), to name a few. For all his dedication to the hip-hop tradition, however, what really makes Jean special is that his wild eclecticism is not bound by genre. He is equally at home with salsa ("Three Nights in Rio"), dancehall-reggae ("I Am Your Doctor"), or classic soul balladry ("Baby").

The death of his father two years ago seems to have spurred Jean to explore the meaning of family. He wistfully recalls his own childhood in "Celebrate," ponders the fate of a promising school friend who landed in jail in "Class Reunion," and grapples with the process of raising another man's child in the inspired "Baby Daddy." More energized than he has sounded since his landmark 1997 solo debut, The Carnival, Jean exudes gratitude for making it this far, and a determination to make the most of the time he's got left. •

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