Wyclef Jean: The Carnival Vol. II Memoirs of an Immigrant

When approaching a Wyclef album you know not to expect traditional Rap music. He has always colored outside the lines, blurring the boundaries of what it’s suppose to sound and feel like. The Carnival Vol. II Memoirs Of An Immigrant (Columbia) is no different. It plays more like a Reggae/Soca album than Hip-Hop, with Wyclef crooning his rhymes more than actually rapping them. With that being said, this is not the album geared for the Hip-Hop purist.

He opens up with the Rock/Hip-Hop mash-up “Riot” featuring System Of A Down front man Serj Tankian. At about the half way mark, the song turns to a dub plate featuring Reggae legend Sizzla, then back to the mash-up. Needless to say, this encompasses the feel of the entire project: a fusion of genres and an eclectic assortment of featured artists. The lead single, “Sweetest Girl” featuring Lil’ Wayne and Akon, is an acoustic guitar lead soft rock type of ballad with ethereal humming background vocals. Weezy throws what feels to be a half-ass verse on it and Akon does his signature high pitch nasal sing/rap shtick. In between verses, Wyclef recites Wu-Tang’s legendary hook for “C.R.E.A.M.”

He then takes it to Latin America with “Selena.” With assistance from R&B singer Melissa Jimenez; the Reggae/Merengue track pays homage to late great Latin artists Selena, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. “Touch Your Button Carnival Jam” is a thirteen minute long track that is deeply rooted in Caribbean culture with shout outs to Eastern Parkway, the home of the New York city’s epic two-day long West Indian Day Parade. The song begins as a pop number then transcends to an all out Soca Carnival jam featuring Soca star Machel Montano, Haitian rappers Black Alex, Djakout Mizik and Brazilian samba singer Daniela Mercury; a veteran on the Caribbean music scene who commands stadium status across the globe.

Wyclef takes a step back from globetrotting with “What About The Baby” where he is assisted by Mary J. Blige. This is the second time that the two have collaborated and it’s just as good as the first (“911”). This sounds like a follow up to one of Wyclef’s most popular songs, “Gone Till November,” with Wyclef returning only to be met with hostility and a broken heart.

The self-proclaimed “Prince of Haiti's” loyalty to his homeland and to all of the other West Indian islands is unmatched. Wyclef definitely shows his musical dexterity and flexes his international prowess all over this album. Stuffing almost every type of Caribbean inspired musical genre on to one album will work for his fan base, but may prove to be too much for new recruits.