Wyclef has become much more than just a member of The Fugees. He is also much more than the Bob Marley imposter which L.L. Cool J alleged. Wyclef is part of a hip-hop scene that is both commercially accessible but also has a uniquely characteristic charm. With his smash Grammy nominated album The Carnival, he gained tons of fans and respect, with hits like We Trying To Stay Alive, Guantanamera, and Gone Till November.
The 2 following albums had impressive tracks but failed to live up to the quality and emotion of The Carnival. Still, those 2 LPS (Ecleftic and Masquerade) did have hits like 911, It Doesn’t Matter and 2 Wrongs. In 2003, Wyclef signed to J Records and The Preacher’s Son, filled with more singing than rhyming, is his most melodic and soulful album to date. Still, the street edge is there with guests like Redman, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Rah Digga, Scarface and others. The main aspect that makes this album work is Wyclef’s soulful passion.
While Wyclef is a gifted emcee, he is more of a singer and songwriter on The Preacher’s Son, and his best work is when he sings. Take Me As I Am (featuring Sharissa) is a beautiful and poignant duet where he explores the romance in accepting your lover for who they truly are. Baby is a funny yet still poignant song that is sung in the genre of the 50s doo-wop slow dance songs. Wyclef’s falsetto voice takes some getting used to but the emotion and passion overpowers the silly aspect. The song could have been easily dismissed as a joke but Wyclef makes it work well. In the hook, Wyclef sings;
”We gone listen to Marvin / We gone listen to Smokey / We gone listen to Donnie ‘ Hathaway / Would you please lay your body next to mine?!”
Only Wyclef could pull this off. Linda (featuring Carl Restivo) is another cool track that deals with the pain and the potential violence of infidelity. Linda has a gun and she is furious because her man is cheating. Wyclef sets the scene perfectly and the vocal hook works extremely well.
Other jewels of the album where Wyclef sings are Grateful, I Am Your Doctor (featuring Wayne Wonder & Elephant Man) and Who Gave The Order (featuring Buju Banton). But even though Wyclef sings for a majority of the album, there are enough moments of rhyming to satisfy hip-hop lovers. Not only does Wyclef have clever deliveries and lyrics when he rhymes, the overall feeling of hip-hop is evident in every song. In the opening cut, Industry, Wyclef sings about the different tensions within hip- hop. The insightful song poses many ‘what if’ questions about the industry.
While Wyclef does sing on many of the songs, guest emcees handle the rhyming. On Next Generation, Rah Digga and Scarface contribute rhymes to complement Wyclef’s singing. The chorus is sung by Wyclef:
“…We are the next generation, we ain’t scared to die / The only thing I fear is the afterlife / Cos I don’t know what’s there on the other side / But I pray the Lord forgives me, gives me one more try…”
While this could have been a classic collaboration, it does not have the same power as songs like Baby or Take Me As I Am. Still, it is a solid track. Redman lends a hand on Baby Daddy. Even though he only has one verse, his contribution is a breath of fresh air. This track, about being a stepfather, is noble, humorous, and precious. Wyclef and Redman make a good team and this is a perfect track for them.
Unfortunately, The Preacher’s Son does contain a few filler tracks, in the form of party songs. Not only do you have Party To Damascus and its remix, there are also songs like Party By The Sea and Celebrate. Even though Party To Damascus (featuring Missy Elliot) is decent, the remix is completely unnecessary. Party By The Sea does have an interesting and enjoyable performance by Buju Banton but Celebrate is a glossy party track with Patty LaBelle and Cassidy. Obviously, these party tracks are put there to sell records, but they do not have the same intensity of past Wyclef party tracks like It Doesn’t Matter or We Trying To Stay Alive.
Wyclef and J Records make an excellent fit. The Preacher’s Son is a much better album than Masquerade, his previous. Even though Wyclef mainly sings on the LP, the guest emcees like Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Scarface, Rah Digga, Cassidy, and Redman add to the hip-hop flavour of the album. They maintain the street credibility without making it too obvious. For the most part, The Preacher’s Son is a balanced album, featuring party songs, political songs and love songs. Wyclef has the capacity to make gritty hardcore hip-hop while making introspective and romantic tracks at the same time. As a man and an artist, he has found a balance. Just as was the case with Carnival, The Preacher’s Son has a timeless quality and in years to come, may be considered one of Wyclef’s best albums. The only person who may be able to reach you, is Wyclef, the son of a preacher man.
The Preacher’s Son (2003)
Record Label: J Records