Wyclef Jean - Masquerade

Wyclef Jean is a genius and the nearest modern day equivalent to Bob Marley we have in terms of critical and commercial recognition. Preaching peace to the people on the streets while still appealing to the white English middle classes is a position which most political artists would love to be in and while acts like Dead Prez and ADF are spot on with their politics they'll only ever preach to the converted unless they condense their politics into a radio friendly pop format. From the opening of "Peace God" he preaches from the highest mountain to a steadily growing congregation and speaks to his brothers to drop the guns, drop the violence and just get out there educate yourself and make life better for your friends and family. All the time keeping it real with the kids on the corner selling smack and speaking of a child who's gone straight while at the same time this characters mother has died of cancer. Its deeper than deep but kept light with the crispest beats and the lushest backing vocals.

Taking us back to where he comes from he proves that you can take the man out of the PJ's (The Projects for those who don't understand these Ghetto abbreviations), but you can't take the PJ's out of the man. He may be an international gigolo superstar, but he still came from the Streets and those experiences are with him when he rest his head on silk pillows. never forgetting the importance of a pop hook Wyclef dips into our musical heritage with "Oh What A Night", the Tom Jones sampling "Pussycat" and a cover of Dylan's "Knocking On Heavens Door". Its a move which he's executed with style over his previous releases of "Wish You Were Here" from the "Ecleftic", but when you're touching a genius like Dylan you can't help but feel this would have been better left for the live shows or a rarities collection rather than the focus of the album itself

Some thought Wyclef couldn't surpass "The Ecleftic", but sure enough he's taken it to a new level with "Masquerade". It's an album which takes in September 11th, the LA Riots and mixes it up with Tom Jones samples, Timberland / Missy style production on "You Say Keep It Gangster" and real roots reggae of "War No More" and everything including the kitchen sink. And for that alone you simply have to bend down on knees at the church of Wyclef - the true Jean Genius!!!

Alex McCann

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