Wyclef Jean’s J’ouvert kicks off with a bang with the ambitious ‘The Ring’. The song starts off with Wyclef explaining why he’s come back now and mapping out his near future. He also comments on his critics. The people who wonder if he still has it, or if he’s lost it. As soon as the beat kicks in, however, complimented by a choir-like backbone and Chance The Rapper-style bars and delivery, the question of whether Wyclef has still got it has been answered with a very emphatic ‘yes’.
The jumpy dance tune ‘I Swear’, with its Caribbean R&B swagger and reggae dancehall beat comes next and features Wyclef protégé Young Thug. Yes, the same Young Thug who’s baffling and inventive music video for his song ‘Wyclef Jean’ was a viral internet sensation last year.
The songs ‘Rear View’ and ‘Holding On The Edge’ bring the reggae influence even further to the forefront, with the latter song sounding as if it could have come off of any one of the Marley brothers’ most recent releases.
The political anthem ‘Little Things’ featuring talented Detroit rapper T-Baby, finds Wyclef exploring the usage of auto-tune. Auto tune is over done these days and can easily be abused, but if used sparingly and in the proper context can add a nice flavor to a soft beat.
‘Lady Haiti’ is another in a long line of tributes paid by Wyclef to the country of his birth. It’s the most personal song on the album and features an uplifting eletro-calypso beat it’s virtually impossible not to move your body to.
‘Party Started’ is a great tune in which Wyclef reflects on and celebrates his musical journey. It’s pretty simple and to the point, but it’s fun and jumpy.
‘Hendrix’ is Wyclef taking a crack at trap, a hip hop subgenre which itself was influenced by the styles Wyclef was creating back in the 90’s. It’s a great success, as far as Wyclef proving he can make music which is not only current and relevant in this musical climate, but actually helps to elevate the form with his original style of singing and rapping.
Last but not least, ‘If I Was President 2016’ resurrects that unreleased gem in Wyclef’s catalogue, with updated lyrics reflecting the current political climate in America. It’s a good song and I appreciate that the message doesn’t take aim at any one specific politician, but seems to say, if you want change, you have to be the one willing to make it happen. It starts with you.
It’s a message we need right now, and it ends the EP off on the perfect note.
As a bonus, Wyclef tacks a few acoustic renditions of his songs on to the end along with a live version of the French Caribbean reggae joint ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, in which many of the lyrics are in French.
J’ouvert is intended as an appetite wetter and introduction to Wyclef’s third Carnival release, expected sometime this summer. And if this EP is any indication, The Carnival III is agoing to be something very, very special. A perfect companion to those long, hot, beach baiting days in the sun.
Watch for our cover interview with Wyclef Jean next issue of Vandala Magazine.