Lauryn Hill, Pras and Wyclef Jean have walked very different paths since The Fugees broke up. Hill was a hit with both critics and fans with her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Her follow-up, an MTV Unplugged album released four years later, was met with much head scratching. Pras had the biggest hit of any Fugee, "Ghetto Supastar," but he then faded away.
Wyclef has been the steadiest performer of the three. His debut album, The Carnival, was a huge hit. His follow-up, The Ecleftic, was popular, and was boosted by guest spots by Mary J. Blige and WWE wrestler The Rock. Masquerade, his third album, saw Wyclef's star fading quickly.
Over a year later, Wyclef is back with Preacher's Son, and it's more of the same. The Carnival was a fun, humorous take on society. Wyclef preached about violence and safe sex, among other things, but he did it in an amusing fashion (i.e. the infamous "RAPE!" skit). Three albums later, however, he's more reverend than irreverent. When he's rapping with Missy Elliot ("Party to Damascus") or grooving with Santana ("Three Nights in Rio") the album is a blast. When he's telling us about the "thin line between love and hate" on "Linda" or reminding us how grateful he is on, um, "Grateful," I can't help but think that I've heard it all before.
After an awkward and humorless intro by, of all people, comedian Steve Harvey, Wyclef kicks off the album with "Industry," a track that decries rap violence. He raps about 2Pac and B.I.G. and the Fugees, and Wyclef's problems become all too clear -- he's trapped in 1997 and he hasn't found a way out. Sure, he compares the violence of '97 to current rap feuds between the likes of Ja Rule and 50 Cent, but such comparisons seem a bit excessive.
Wyclef has a gift for mixing genres and incorporating live instrumentation, but until he catches up with the times, his dated lyrics and ideas will hold back his diverse music.