Wyclef Jean: From The Hut, To The Projects, To The Mansion [Album Review]


Singer/songwriter/producer/rapper Wyclef Jean is back with his new 13-track EP From The Hut To The Projects To The Mansion, assuming the alias Toussaint St Jean (inspired by the historical Haitian slave-to-revolutionary leader, Toussaint L’Overture, which you can see in essence with the warrior spirit of the album).  Supporting this assertive album are some females who know how to hold their own: Lil Kim, Eve and an unexpected but effective collaboration with Cyndi Lauper; as well as a definite club banger with Timbaland, which has the super producer’s signature all over it.

Wyclef enters the album with confidence, letting the world know that he’s alive and kicking and clearly setting the record straight that he is not Will.I.am, whom he mentions being mistaken for in the “Warrior’s Anthem”.  I am guessing that he feels strongly about the artists that are currently holding his spot. In “The Streets Pronounce Me Dead” he says, “Haters started talking saying I went left, Akon stole my spot, Will.I.Am took my vest”, showing that he won’t be left behind in the shadows.

He has a lot to prove because albeit having a few albums under his belt, he is still struggling to gain the same respect as a soloist that he earned with his well missed and Grammy award winning group The Fugees. In my opinion has had more misses than hits (e.g. single Perfect Gentleman”) and maybe that is because he is struggling to please his Fugees fans and still stay mainstream, which is a very hard task.

A Wyclef album wouldn’t be complete without some reggae flavours and “We Made It” has a nice blend of hip hop and reggae beats, aswell as “Gangsta Girl”. Also not without acoustic guitar strings, which is well delivered on the last track “The Shottas”. However the reggae and acoustic accents are lightly featured and yet with so much reference to his roots, it is a shame he didn’t play with stronger reggae rhythms. He does however  manage to stay true to his style as Clef the soloist. Constantly experimenting with different flavours and influences, he still manages to keep it gangsta when relevant, without crossing the line of billingsgate, to get his point across.

Remembering his Haitian roots, his biographical delivery tells his rags to riches story represented in the album title. Disappointingly, the album starts off like he is coming strong as a warrior of hip hop: Toussaint St Jean, but it starts to lose its power as the album progresses with his attempts to stay current, with tracks such  as “More Bottles” with Timbaland and a weak attempt at a Bonnie & Clyde inspired duet “Suicide Love”, with Eve. It feels as though when he arrived at the mansion, he lost sense of self and jumped on the band wagon of commercial beats and weak arrangements!

Although I can’t lie and say that I’m a Wyclef fan,  80% of this album is sure to grow on you if it doesn’t grab you immediately, with the exception of “Robotic love” which, like marmite, you either love or hate. Unfortunately I’m leaning more towards ‘hate’, but that could be because I have personal beef with oversaturated auto tune. I won’t be becoming a die-hard Clef fan just yet!

Reviewed by Liz Amadi