SINCE THE DAY ‘CLEF LIFTED THE BASS LINE from the Bee Gee’s 1977 disco hit “Stayin’ Alive” for his first lead single, he made it evident that he wouldn’t be stifled by the short creative leash Hip Hop fans often impose on artists. The No. 1 Haitian Sensation’s upcoming fifth solo release, Sak Pase Presents: Welcome to Haiti, Creole 101, completes his metamorphosis from eclectic Hip Hop MC to bonafide guitar strumming tenor.
The bulk of the album, performed in Creole, Haiti’s native tongue, is rife with island vibes and riddims. Songs such as the vibrant, polyphonic “Party by The Sea,” featuring Buju Banton, and the jubilant “Fistibal Fesival” will easily spark a fiesta laden with bottles of rum, some garishly festooned floats and a handful of scantily clad revelers. Another high point is the mid tempo, inspirational “President,” one of the few tracks performed entirely in English, where The Preacher’s Son muses about the changes he would implement if he were head of state. Politically charged, peacenik lyrics such as, “Instead of spending billions on the war/l can use that money so I can feed the poor,” prove that the presidential candidates could learn a thing or two from ‘Clef.
Unfortunately, the results are less pleasing when Wyclef tries to mix too many colors on one palette. “Haitian Mafia,” an unnecessary attempt at some Creole gangsta rap, sounds terribly uneven and has no hope of leveling off when a flat and forgettable verse from Foxy Brown kicks in.
For all intents, Wyclef Jean’s full length foray into world music is a laudable one. But to really brush shoulders with other masters of the genre, such as Youssou N’dour and Les Nubians, ‘Clef needs to realize that even raw, unbridled creativity requires a healthy dose of disciplined direction. GEORGE HAGAN
Roy Jones, Jr. Presents: Body Head Bangerz Volume One
THERE’S NOTHING new about athletes TRYING to rap, but save for Shaq (say what you want, he’s gone platinum), most of these projects fail miserably. Attempting to buck the trend is the outspoken pugilist Roy Jones, Jr. Recruiting a few A List rappers, the heavyweight contender unleashes his second round album, Roy Jones, Jr. Presents: Body Head Bangerz Volume One. The champ does rap, but proves much wiser for allowing his corner men to run the ring. Notable guests, including Juvenile (“Don’t Start It”), Lil’ Flip (“Bailers”), Mike Jones (“24s,” featuring Bun B) and Magic on the knockout cut “I Smoke, I Drank,” all make for solid lyrical sparring partners. Despite some weak tracks such as “You A Freak” and “Keep It Movin’,” Bangerz is a decent compilation. Unlike other athletes cum rappers, Jones could possibly make Hip Hop his day job. ALLEN WOODS
Legend ofthe Wu Tang Clan’s Greatest Hits
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The Wu Tang Clan revolutionized Hip Hop with their unprecedented release, Enter the Wu Tang: 36 Chambers. So it’s no surprise that seven songs from that classic debut are featured on Legend of the Wu Tang: Wu Tang Clan’s Greatest Hits. The Shaolin crew’s groundbreaking sound is exemplified on “C.R.E.A.M.,” on which RZA’s bare knuckled production provides the perfect backdrop for Raekwon to spit such timeless darts: “I grew up on the crime side/The New York Times side/Staying alive was no jive.” However, diehard Wu loyalists will find it difficult not to notice the sequencing of this nostalgic masterpiece, which chronologically documents the Clan’s hits. By the time newer singles such as “Gravel Pit” and “Uzi (Pinky Ring)” are introduced, the difference in quality from their earlier material is sorely apparent. Still, there’s no denying the musical legacy of these Shaolin pioneers.
As the last member of A Tribe Called Quest to go solo, Ali Shaheed Muhammad proves he doesn’t need Q Tip or Phife on his debut, Shaheedullah and Stereotypes. Ali’s presence is felt on the mic with the politically charged lead single, “Elevated Orange.” And on “Industry/Life,” he spits: “You want it hardcore, straight in your veins with no chase/You too slow, boy, pick up your pace.” Unfortunately, Ali’s decision to emerge from behind the soundboard offers mixed results. On “Lord Can I Have This Mercy,” he’s thoroughly outshined by Chip Fu, and, like most producers who start MCing late in their careers, Ali hasn’t perfected his flow. But when veteran singers Stokely Williams and Sy Smith join him to create the soulful “Put Me On” and “Honey Child,” respectively, Ali Shaheed Muhammad puts those Tribe reunion pleas on hold, if only for a second. MARLON REGIS
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