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WYCLEF JEAN's extraordinary musical talent has brought him wealth and fame and taken him all over the world. He's been a member of the biggest-selling rap group in history, he's a multi-platinum hit-making solo artist, and he has produced for and collaborated with an incredibly diverse array of musical superstars. But throughout his career, Wyclef Jean has never forgotten where he's from, the places that nurtured his character and creativity as a young man: his native Haiti, where he lived until age nine, as well as the projects of Brooklyn and the streets of Jersey.
On Masquerade, his third solo album, Wyclef focuses his considerable lyrical and musical skills on life in the hood: past, present, and future. There are vivid tales of his childhood and his struggles as a young immigrant on the mean streets of New York, serious messages to the youth wrongly enamored of thug culture, and pleas for peace and love in the future - all backed by the eclectic and unpredictable sounds we've come to expect from a Wyclef Jean CD. Hardcore hip hop beats, R&B funk, slow jams, and uptempo reggae - they are all here, sometimes all in the same track.
Wyclef Jean, of course, first hit it big as a prime mover in the groundbreaking Fugees, whose 1996 masterpiece The Score stands as one of the most influential records in hip hop history. On that album, Wyclef pioneered a production style that became virtually unavoidable throughout the rest of the 1990s: real-life street hip hop seasoned with a radio-friendly musical, lyrical, and vocal sophistication. The Score sold more than 11 million copies world-wide, won two Grammys (including Best Rap Album), and paved the way for the successful solo careers of all three of its members.
In 1997, Clef released Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival, a double-platinum album that featured the emotionally powerful hit single "Gone Till November." Clef's second solo CD, The Ecleftic - 2 Sides II a Book, was even more musically adventurous. In addition to his solo work, Clef found time to collaborate with Whitney Houston on her smash hit, "My Love Is Your Love," and with Carlos Santana on his chart-topping hit, "Maria, Maria."
The spiritual element that's always been crucial to Wyclef's music is immediately apparent on "Peace of God," the first track of Masquerade. Clef calls this his "Crouching Tiger style": a Far East flute is looped over a hip hop drumbeat while Clef rhymes in praise of God and against false idols made by man.
There's no other musician today who seems so natural in so many different genres. There's only one Wyclef Jean and Masquerade secures his place as one of the most versatile, talented, and accomplished musical artists.