CD Spotlight

It's been nine years since the Fugees, an eclectic trio from New Jersey, conquered the music world with their sophomore album The Score. After selling more than 18 million records worldwide, Wyclef, Praz, and L-Boogie shifted focus to their respective solo careers; Clef was the first out of the gate with The Carnival, a joyful LP that combined influences ranging from '70s Bee Gees to classic Celia Cruz. He followed the debut with a pair of smug albums that revealed his penchant for cheesy samples and ill-conceived collaborations more than his tight instrumentation and a deft ability to blend styles.

Yet, Clef's latest release, Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101, picks up where The Carnival left off in theme and content. The album is an ode to his homeland's independence spurred by Jean's lofty artistic ambitions. For example, half of the album's 16 cuts feature lyrics sung and rapped in Haiti's poetic patois, while Clef's guitar skills abundantly shine.

   Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101
Wyclef Jean

One of the disc's jewels, "President," showcases Clef's knack for crafting a protest song from a simple refrain, in this case the Pharcyde's classic skit "If I Were President," which is smoothly transformed into a down-tempo, politicized version of Nas' "If I Ruled the World": "We can use some of that money in the ghetto and they use the spring as a shower."

The album includes an inspired Reggeaton version of "La Bamba" and features guest shots by the forgotten Foxy Brown on "Haitian Mafia," Buju Banton on the bouncy "Party By The Sea," and a host of the island's best underground artists. Clef delivers a striking effort that should hit home with lovers of Afropop and fans longing for that long-rumored Fugees reunion.

By M. Solis

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