"Eek! Left it somewhere"

Sep 6, 2000 at 12:00 am

He’s lucky I like him.

Normally, a new album gets three songs. If nothing moves the earth by then, it’s headed for some merchant’s “used” bin. This one took two listens, ya heard? Two before deciding whether or not I liked it. That’s not cool, because Wyclef is supposed to be a good first-impression type of cat. Not counting the Fugees’ first album.

I liked 14 of Ecleftic’s 19 songs. Loved two. “911” is the most sincere duet I’ve heard in a long time. Clef and Mary J. Blige sing to angels on that one. But then dude turns around and hooks up with Whitney Houston and Kenny Rogers on two corny “Dub Plates.” Didn’t like them at all. Treating hip-hop break beats like dancehall riddims doesn’t work. In reggae, it’s par for the course. In hip hop, it’s biting.

This is what you do. Buy Wyclef’s album. It is worth it. But start listening at track 6 (the Mary joint). Let it ride through the combo with Earth, Wind & Fire (“Runaway”), the Amadou Diallo tribute and the Pink Floyd remake. He’s brilliant on the latter portion of the album. But there are too many commercial attempts on the front end. For instance, I never need to hear Rock on a rap record again (“It Doesn’t Matter”). Especially after the GOP convention. And reaching out to Lauryn and Pras on “Where Fugees At?” even seems late and opportunistic. It’s a tired spat.

Wyclef is one of hip hop’s most gifted artists, but he seems to have lost some focus on this one. Grade: C. For him, it’s average work.