Wyclef has become much more than just a member of The Fugees. He is also much more than a Bob Marley imposter (as L.L. Cool J stated). Wyclef is a part of a part of hip-hop that is both somewhat commercially accessible but also has a charm and a unique characteristic. With his guitar, Wyclef both sings and raps (like his fellow Fugee Lauryn Hill). 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 released his most melodic and soulful album to date. “The Preacher’s Son” is filled with more singing than rhyming. 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 50’s 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 your man is cheating. Wyclef sets the scene perfectly and the sung hook works extremely well. Other jewels of the album where Wyclef sings are “Grateful”, “I Am Your Doctor” (f/ Wayne Wonder & Elephant Man) and “Who Gave The Order” (featuring Buju Banton).
Even though Wyclef sings for a majority of the album, there are enough moments of rhyming to satisfy hip-hop loves. 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 and beefs within the industry. The insightful song poses many “what if” questions about the industry. Wyclef’s first verse: "...Imagine if Biggie and Pac never got shot / And they both still were rulers of hip hop / And Puffy and Suge was roommates from college / And Big L never got found in the alley / Nas and Jay-Z they were still homies / Squash the beef with Ja Rule and 50 / Benzino shook hands with Eminem / And on the same record I heard Eve, Fox and Kim / And sometimes when I dream, that's when I wake up / I kinda hoped that The Fugees didn't break up / And when they walked into the studio I prayed they didn't spray /
Cause I miss that scratch from Jam Master Jay..." Another wonderful song with rhyming on it is “Rebel Music” featuring Prodigy of Mobb Deep. Prodigy delivers some of his most political lyrics to date: “…Can these devils fool us son, not now, dun / We're a generation of thugs, you can't play with us / We've been lied to, enslaved and beaten up /
We're immune to what you call pain, it's nothing / We're not scared of dying or afraid of guns…” Prodigy and Wyclef definitely make an interesting collaboration. While Wyclef does sing on 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 after life / 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. Even though the song is called “Baby Daddy”, it is more about being a stepfather. In the chorus, Wyclef sings, “…I ain't that baby's daddy, I treat him like he's my own / But sometimes sit and wonder how can I father another man's son…” It is noble, humorous, and precious. Wyclef and Redman make a good team and this is a perfect track for them.
One aspect that makes “The Preacher’s Son” have filler is the abundant amount of party songs. Not only do you have “Party To Damascus” and its remix, there are 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 always 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. Unfortunately, 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 his previous “Masquerade”. Even though Wyclef mainly sings on the LP, he does rhyme a little bit and has guest emcees like Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Scarface, Rah Digga, Cassidy, and Redman. They not only add to the hip-hop flavor of the album, but they maintain the street credibility without it being obvious. For the most part, “The Preacher’s Son” is a balanced album. There are party songs, political songs, and love songs. Wyclef is extremely talented and his contribution to hip-hop music is unlimited. He 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. Songs like “Take Me As I Am” and “Baby” are soulful and romantic while “Baby Daddy” is fun, touching, and humorous. Beyond that, you have political songs like “Who Gave The Order” and “Rebel Music”. Like “Carnival”, Wyclef’s “The Preacher’s Son” has a timeless quality and may be considered one of his best albums in years to come. The only person who may be able to reach you, is Wyclef, the son of a preacher man.