Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wyclef Jean - The Carnival

Release Date: March 24, 1997

★★★★★ Tracks:


To All the Girls

Anything Can Happen

"To all the girls I cheated on before, it's a new year.
I got a new change of gear, I swear.
I can see clear now the clouds disappeared.
You forgive but never forget, so the past reappears, uh huh."

I had no reason to post these lyrics, and I probably look like a moron by quoting them here, but damn was it fun to sing along to back in high school. I hadn't even had a real girlfriend yet (unless you count 7th grade when I asked Robin if she would go out with me via circle "yes" or "no" on a school note. She said yes. Or maybe she asked me?... Regardless, she was hot.), and I guess that's on par for a sixteen year old, geeky white guy, rapping to Wyclef while driving his best buds around in his mom's minivan. But I still felt cool as hell rhyming along with the Carnival, and it ended up being the default party record to my junior year in high school -- the one you put on when your parents left for the weekend, and you invited some close friends over to have a few beers, and that select few quickly escalated in to your entire high school showing up and trashing your place.

I went through college all but forgetting about The Carnival. But when I ripped the disc on to my computer soon after moving to New York, I remembered all those things I loved about it. As Chris Rock said, it really is the best Fugees-related album to own. The Score was our introduction, and The Miseducation is the critics' choice, but the best beats are on the Carnival, produced by Wyclef himself. While he may not be among the upper-echelon of MCs, or even the best in his group, he has a great knack for storytelling and references. Whether realizing he's in love with two women after seeing A Thin Line Between Love and Hate on cable, channeling 007 and pulling a bomb from his shoe, reminiscing Flatbush where his first pair of sneakers got stolen, or telling the semi-autobiographical story of the performer who can't stand the 9-5, but has just as hard of a time saying goodbye to his girl before a tour, the lyrics are easy to get wrapped up in on The Carnival. Yes, the skits get old and the album drags on a little too long, but those are two complaints I have for nearly all rap records.

One of the best tracks is "Guantanamera," a quasi-cover to the popular Cuban classic, it features Celia Cruz singing some of the original version's lyrics, and Lauryn Hill with one of my favorite versus of hers from anything she's recorded. (Note: The music video version of this song indulges in a few embellishments I could do without, and are not contained in the original track. The video is still pretty cool though, especially the homage to El Mariachi. )

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