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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Wyclef Jean reveals past from ‘Hut’ to ‘Mansion’

Ladies and gentlemen, Wyclef Jean would like to reintroduce himself.

On his new album, From the Hut, to the Projects, to the Mansion, Jean returns to his hip-hop roots with DJ Drama helming the musical production. The result is a work where strong messages and creativity shine through when Jean is in his familiar domain, yet flounders when he tries to ride the current electro-hip-hop-auto-tune party wave.

Originally meant to be a mix tape, From the Hut, to the Projects, to the Mansion became something more ambitious, thus turning into a sophisticated full-length album. The intention of a mix tape — to explore an artist’s lyrical potential — is evident in several of the tracks which rank among the best on the album. Jean also intro introduces his alter ego, Toussaint St. Jean, based off the Haitian revolutionary Fran?ois-Dominique Toussaint L’ouverture. It seems as though Jean is starting a revolution of his own.

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From the Hut‘s second track, “Warrior’s Anthem” acts as Jean’s official re-launch into the thoughtful and revealing hip-hop world he helped create. Backed by an absorbing slow beat and a deep choir of basses, he explains how he came to be: “Let me introduce myself to the new generation/ I’m Wyclef Jean, singer, songwriter, composer/ In high school I used to be a battle rapper/ Then I got with The Fugees/ All haters, 15 years later/ Sold more records than all of ya’ll put together.” The song succeeds in setting the tone for what Jean aims to achieve with the album, which is to make everybody aware of where he came from and where he stands now.

And where Jean came from — born in Haiti, then moving to Brooklyn and onto New Jersey — is a captivating tale in itself. This personal significance is captured by the booming chorus of “We Made It,” where Jean shows no restraint both vocally and lyrically, making it one of the best and most engrossing tracks on the album. The song “Slumdog Millionaire,” donning a light pop sound, also explains this ascendance with the help of Cyndi Lauper. Her presence may seem random but it proves to be a catchy tune.

Where Jean stands now is another topic where he shows little restraint concerning his opinions. It is clear he has some bones to pick with those who naysay, challenge or talk smack about his status in hip-hop or act indifferent to his rough origins. He takes jabs at fellow artists on the track, “The Streets Pronounce me Dead,” where he says, “Akon took my spot/ Will.I.Am took my vest/ Started beatin’ on the coffin ’cause I could hear the crowd/ But they can’t hear me ’cause Lil Jon’s preachin’ too loud.” Likewise, on the track “Walk Away,” Jean advises against the reckless insults artists let loose and how they do not have the credibility to back them up. He pokes fun at them by saying: “Your gangsta’ grill too pretty/ And there ain’t no dentist at the mortuary.”

When the album strays away from these themes concerning Jean’s origins and his return to hip-hop, his authentic, worldly sound is exchanged for the more synthesized and electric sounding fare that dominates the radio today. Songs like “You Don’t Wanna Go Outside,” “Robotic Love” and “Gangsta Girl,” are banal compared to the grittiness and genuineness that Jean excels in on the other tracks.

Though these songs stray from the heart of what is important on this album, Jean’s reminders in the best songs are still strong enough to bring it back to memory: In hip-hop, he is home.

3 stars out of 5.

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