The Preacher’s Son

Wyclef will never make an album as imaginative and enthralling as 1997’s The Carnival. Once one is past that, it becomes easier to swallow The Preacher’s Son, his newest release which features collaborations with a plethora of other hip-hop and reggae artists including Redman, Cassidy, Prodigy and Buju Banton, Elephant Man-among others.

As with Wyclef’s previous releases, particularly 2000’s Ecleftic: Two Sides to a Book, The Preacher’s Son is an eclectic musical buffet, featuring Bollywood chorus chants (“Rebel Music”), hip-hop dance (“Party to Damascus” with Missy Elliot), 1970’s-era diluted soul fare (“Baby”), dancehall reggae (“I Am Your Doctor”) Caribbean konpa (“Party by the Sea,” featuring T-Vice), and an inspiring Brazilian bossa nova “Three Nights in Rio”, an song highlighted by Carlos Santanna’s skillful guitar manipulation and a Celia Cruz accolade

Following the duet formula from albums past (“911” with Mary J. Blige and “Two Wrongs” from 2002’s Masquerade), Wyclef teams up with fellow J-Recording artist Monica on a surprisingly good ballad “Class Reunion” and even rocks alongside legendary balladeer Patti Labelle in “Celebrate,” an ode to long-gone good times.

Wyclef leaves his most revelatory lyrics for the song “Linda”. Linda, a thinly disguised nickname for the equally two-syllabic “Lauryn,” is an apparent take at Clef’s one-time lover and former Fugee Lauryn Hill. “Someone stop Linda”, he pleads in an obvious supplication for someone to turn the fame-shunning, public-evading Hill back to reality.

In “Baby Daddy”, the Lauryn references are less camouflaged. In what is supposedly a track about a stepfather’s trials, Wyclef states: “I ain’t that baby’s daddy/…Treat him like he my own”, bringing to mind ongoing media speculation about Lauryn’s son Zion’s paternity.

“Next Generation” is the most arresting single on The Preacher’s Son. “I was born a crack baby/Found in a plastic bag in the alley,” Clef raps in this retrospective of the Reaganomics years, “Raised in a foster home/Don’t even know my daddy.” Equally powerful lyrics are spoken by guest star Rah Digga: “Look at what we facin’/Kids raised in cells/Flowers and candles decorating the pavement…Many suffer while we spendin’ $80 billion on a war/Metal detectors replace music classes/ . . . AIDS already deadenin’ us.” Scarface, just as impressive, also takes part in this social conscience fare.

While The Preacher’s Son is no Carnival, with its seductive beats, deep lyrics, it’s akin to at least a block celebration. It has one dancing and, more importantly, pondering.