Wyclef Jean: J’ouvert
In 1994, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Prakazrel Michel – the latter of whom went by Pras and eventually achieved his greatest success as a solo artist in ‘98 with “Ghetto Supastar (That is What You Are)” – delivered the first Fugees album, Blunted on Reality, choosing to set the stage for the record with an introduction that features Wyclef proclaiming the year to be 2017. Could he have known at the time that 2017 would be so monumental not only in the revival of his solo career but in his career as a whole? It’s now been 20 years since Fugees accepted a Grammy for their second and final record, The Score. And at the time of acceptance Clef was just a few months away from releasing his solo debut, The Carnival, an adventurous project executively produced by Lauryn that included a Bee Gees sample as well as guest appearances from The Neville Brothers and Celia Cruz. In several of the French-based Creole languages of the Caribbean, “J’ouvert” translates directly to “dawn” or “daybreak,” and refers to the opening of Carnival, the globally observed festival season of parades and street parties. It’s an appropriate title for an EP that was intended to precede Clef’s forthcoming full-length album, Carnival Vol. III: Road to Clefication, which currently carries an as of yet unofficial release date of summer 2017, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of his first record as a solo artist. And as one would expect from an album that refers to such a widely observed tradition, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in terms of its sound. Reggae, hip hop, and Son Cubano continue to define Clef’s Carnival vibe, though he welcomes in the bass-heavy trap production Young Thug listeners are accustomed to on the track “I Swear,” which also features a verse from the Atlanta-born rapper. “Holding On the Edge” features Walk the Moon in a well-cast role, the Caribbean vibe seemingly loosening them up after multiple years of telling listeners across the world to “Shut Up and Dance” with them. On “Lady Haiti,” Clef continues to build the hype for the third edition of the Carnival series: “When they call me to the Grammys/I’ll wrap the flag all around me.” Despite being nominated for several Grammys throughout his solo career, he’s yet to take home a trophy all his own. It only seems right that Carnival Vol. III will supply listeners with plenty of good vibes this summer and earn its fair share of consideration for awards next February.