Wyclef Jean has always been one of the most talented artists in the Hip-Hop industry. Truly a worldwide figure, the legacy of Wyclef has grown to enormous lengths. The man who once helped bless us with the classic Fugee album "The Score" can now be seen everywhere from Pepsi commercials to performing for some of the biggest political figures in the world. However, all this success hasn't translated well with the Hip-Hop community that Wyclef left behind years ago. Fans, especially critics, were becoming tired of Clef's watered down product and yearned for a return of the old Clef we once all loved and cherished. Well Wyclef heard the cry's from the street and promised a new beginning with his third solo release "Masquerade."
With "Masquerade" Wyclef promised a return to his roots, a return to the streets that raised him. This announcement struck excitement into Fugee fans everywhere. And when Clef dropped the 1st single "PJ's," fans all over thought this would be in fact the return of Wyclef. But, as history has taught us, no matter how hard one try's, it is almost impossible to turn back the hands of time and recreate the same hunger and passion an artist held when they first stepped into the game. While the soulful ode to the projects; "PJ's" is one of Clef's finest tracks, the rest of "Masquerade" fails to follow in the same footsteps.
A Return to the streets was promised, but the final product resembles anything but such a claim. While Clef made good on such a promise for about four tracks, the rest of "Masquerade" is consumed with the same filler tracks that have plagued each of his previous albums. The album stars off real well with the only four street enthused tracks "Peace God," "PJ's," "80 Bars" and "Masquerade," which are all spectacular. "80 Bars" features a hungry Clef not seen since "The Carnival." Clef rips the track with his best lyricism seen in years, proving that Clef can indeed rap, despite popular belief. However, it's the title track "Masquerade" which will indeed draw the most attention, as it should. Sedeck, Clef & Jerry Duplessis' raw production blends perfectly with the fiery emotion of M.O.P. and the once again controversial Freddie Foxxx, this time going at every young girls nightmare R. Kelly.
After the first four tracks though, the atmosphere of "Masquerade" quickly changes into that of the Wyclef we all remember and hated. While the streets were calling for the first four tracks, the rest of the album is filled with the same corny club anthems, horrible remakes and sappy love ballads. "Party Like I Party," "You Say Keep It Gangsta" featuring Butch Cassidy & Sharrissa and "Thug Like Me" are all sub par commercial/club efforts that have been done thousands of times before and seem a little stale/repetitive in this day and age. As with any Wyclef album and you can expect two things; numerous, overbearing ballads and horrible remakes. "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," "The Eulogy" and "War No More" are all tedious efforts from Clef that don't offer anything new or innovative. However, Clef hits an all time low with two of the worst remakes in Hip-Hop history. "Oh What A Night" and Tom Jone's "Pussycat" are both horrendous renditions of the original classics that make you wonder what Wyclef was thinking.
It seems that no matter how hard Wylcef tries, he cannot sway away from the spotlight he so craves. With a golden opportunity to win back the hearts of Hip Hop fans everywhere, Clef releases yet another disappointing album filled with more watered down material and tiresome ballads instead of that raw Hip Hop fans love him for. And while Clef will continue to sell millions of records and be embraced all over the world, the Hip-Hop community he has left behind has lost all hope for Clef. While Wyclef may proclaim that this whole world is in a "Masquerade," it seems Clef is the only one in any type of "Masquerade"; not knowing who he is or who he wants to represent.