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Wednesday, August 23, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 66, Issue 3 

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Wyclef Jean escapes 'sophomore slump,' produces near-classic Ecleftic


Wyclef Jean

The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book
4 1/2 stars

Columbia Records


By Keenan Singleton
Daily Cougar Staff

Who is Wyclef Jean?

Definition --A young dreadlocked champion of hip-hop that has spearheaded an alternative to the tripe that rap has become with his unique signature of breezy guitar riffs, old-school beats and of course, his utter devotion to Bob Marley and the reggae movement.

After carving a niche in the hip-hop game as the jovial jester of the classic hip-hop trio, the Fugees, the self-described "Haitian Frank Sinatra" struck out on his own and dropped the masterpiece, Wyclef Jean Presents: The Carnival, one of those rare albums where every song is enjoyable.

With The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book, Clef picks up his guitar where he left off. 

He begins by confronting all his ex-mates, namely Lauryn Hill and Pras from the dearly departed Fugees on the lyrically insightful, but musically anemic "Where Fugee At?" He then takes on former protégé-turned-enemy No. 1 Canibus on "However You Want It."

The first video from the album, "Thug Angels" hasn't made it to MTV, but it has one of the most clever basslines since Gil-Scot Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and is classic Clef -- dance inducing, socially conscious music with Sinbad-tame lyrics. There aren't any Parental Advisory stickers needed for all you parents.

"It Doesn't Matter," has one of the oddest pairings -- The Rock and Clef -- since the coupling of um, Clef and Kenny Rogers on "The Gambler."

The infectious circa-1988 beat, fusing of soulful, jazzy saxophone and guitar samples and the World Wrestling Federation's The Rock constant berating of materialistic people, make the lead single, "It Doesn't Matter," a well-rounded tune.

There are no "Gone To November" caliber ballads on the album, but the top-notch ballad producer shares his feelings on 'hood deserters with "Hollyhood to Hollywood" and calls on friend Mary J. Blige for a probable upcoming single, "911."

"Something About Mary" is not in homage to the comedy classic, but a tribute to the weed that you inhale and exhale. Unfortunately, Clef whips out his guitar for an impromptu guitar solo where he gives props to several guitar gods. He says "Thanks for the lessons, Mr. Santana," but I say "keep practicing."

Although Ecleftic is a solo album, Clef does take the backseat to a few of his guests.

Rising star The Product G&B and fallen stars Earth, Wind & Fire collaborate for the '70s R&B joint, "Runaway." "Da Cypha" welcomes three talented MCs that upstage Clef with gritty rhymes and inventive patterns.

"Whistle While You Twerk," it's not, but "Perfect Gentleman" is dedicated to ahem, "private dancers," with a beat borrowed from Freak Nasty's "Da Dip."

Much like its predecessor, Ecleftic is solid from track one to track 19. There are truly no Pasadena tracks -- songs that stink. "Pullin' Me In" is the only average track.

Along with producer-in-crime Jerry "Wonder" Duplessis, Clef has cut another near-classic album on the formula of psychotic beats, uncanny samples and gifted guests.
 

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