Monday, January 29, 2007

Hmm … right. I practice many styles.

#9 Wyclef Jean, The Carnival (Columbia, 1997)

What’s worse, a top 25 devoid of hip-hop, or one with a single token album? Nowadays, it seems that an unfamiliarity with hip-hop is tantamount to massive unhipness, if not covert racism (well, at least this album appears higher than the album by Stephen Merritt, that unredeemable cracker). Well, my list is what it is, and The Carnival is what it is, too. Wyclef Jean and his self-proclaimed eclectic genius might now be a symbol of overreaching, but that shouldn’t diminish just how the captivating this album is. In a world of overly frenetic and über-masculine hip-hop, the Carnival sounds loose, laid back, and even charmingly pastoral, even when talking about catching bullets in one’s goose.

And then there is the nostalgia factor: I don’t know if I went to one party from 97-99 where I didn’t hear at least one (and usually multiple) tracks from this record. In fact, all the memories of social time spent with this in the background made it impossible for me to listen to The Carnival in the intervening years. Only when B.C. sent out the call to compile a top 25 this past year did I dig this one back up and realize that I still love this record. It still makes me overly nostalgic, but putting it on the stereo with the fam and seeing an eighteen-month old dance to it certainly eases the pain.

So many good moments here: the crooning sample that intros “To All the Girls”; that sweeping string line in “Gone Til November”; …we are not stopping for no red lights tonight!...; the entrancing French rap + Lauryn Hill’s belting chorus of “Sang Fezi”; …even in New Haven, gunpowder…; the loving and deserved homage to the Bee Gees; F-R-E-S-H.

Finally, as the ultimate evidence for my love for this album: I even like the skits. Down Lo Ho? Bishop? Classic.

P.S. Oh God I almost forgot "Mona Lisa," aka the song that did the impossible: make me like The Neville Brothers. Take a moment to comphrend the magnitude of this.

1 comment:

Big Cougar said...

"I been eating mangoes in Trinidad with attorneys..."

I knew this was coming and it's good to see it arrive.