Considering what the Fugees, responsible for the best-selling hip-hop album of all time, have been up to lately -- Lauryn Hill going spazzola at the Vatican, Wyclef and Pras engaging in the least-listened-to beef of all time, Pras as an actor -- any prospect of the Fugees getting back together is comedy.
Wyclef Jean has been the most visible of the three since the Fugees split many moons ago. He followed his group's dissolution with Carnival, a very complete work that kept the Fugees spirit alive while preparing ear buds for the forthcoming magnum opus that was Lauryn Hill's solo CD, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
By Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book, Clef's second CD, the Fugees had officially forked in the road with none of them having chosen to go straight. Book was also a solid effort but probably had too many superfluous cuts -- Kenny Rogers skits and the like. By Masquerade, his third CD, Clef was crying for the Fugees to get back together in his own songs.
On The Preacher's Son, Clef's newest offering, he's still agonizing about the Fugees split, but it's evident there are more pressing things on his mind. Earlier this year Clef's father, Rev. Gesner Jean, was killed in a freak accident. So it's understandable why such solemnity shadows the CD. Even the more electric Latin- and Caribbean-tinged songs like "Three Nights in Rio," which he does with Carlos Santana, and "Party by the Sea" with Buju Banton and T-Vice, lack the bounce and poignancy of Clef past.
But somber tone doesn't detract from Preacher's Son, easily Clef's most mature effort to date. For many, Preacher's Son will feel like an aged whiskey among cases of Pimp Juice. Clef once commanded a significant share of the listeners normally subscribed to the Nelly market. But those fans will find none of what they're listening for on Preacher's Son.
For those who like their spirits exquisite and obscure -- and less obscene -- new Clef takes you "back to when you and ya mama used to sit around and listen to the same songs together," as Steve Harvey says on the intro track.
Preacher's Son begins on a standard hip-hop note with "Party to Damascus," featuring Missy Elliott, a penny-candy track that still asks for some of the Nelly crowd, and "Industry," which calls for a ceasefire among all the public pride-spats currently occurring in hip hop -- and strangely gives a shoutout to Princess Diana.
With "Industry" being the only song Clef raps on, Preacher's Son takes a sharp curve towards roots reggae, dancehall and doowop. It looks back to rap only in glances, allowing Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Rah Digga and Scarface to drop in for sixteen bars apiece. The songs "I Am Your Doctor" with Wayne Wonder and Elephant Man and "Who Gave the Order" take listeners straight to Kingston. Meanwhile songs like "Take Me as I Am" and Clef's falsetto attempt, "Baby," take us to Motown.
The universality of Clef's music is finally tamed; before, it seemed like it was in all seven continents simultaneously. You can almost feel some of that Fugees spirit re-crystallizing with Preacher's Son. The Fugees were a multi-dimensional group -- but not because each member was one-dimensional and made a single contribution to the whole. Each of the Fugees is multi-dimensional, as they've all demonstrated, and it's when Clef realizes this for himself that he's most successful. Luckily, that's on most of the songs of Preacher's Son.