Album: Wyclef Jean

The Preacher's Son, J Records

Is hip hop becoming increasingly marked by a mood of regretful nostalgia? The rap album that doesn't eulogise "old skool" styles and attitudes from "back in the day" is a rarity these days, even if for some it's lip service. That's clearly not the case with Wyclef, though: The Preacher's Son is thick with wistful recollections of happier childhood days ("Celebrate"), Seventies soul music ("Baby"), and laments for the hip-hop fallen ("Industry") andthose lost souls who didn't make the "Class Reunion". "Maybe I was chosen," Wyclef muses in "Grateful", "a source of inspiration for the next generation?" As role models go, he's better than most, espousing some distinctly un-gangsta attitudes: celebrating fidelity in "Take Me as I Am" and step-parental responsibility in "Baby Daddy", and questioning gun culture from a rasta standpoint in "Who Gave the Order". His musical landscape, too, is more eclectic and positive than hip-hop's usual blasted heath of bare break-beats and basslines, drawing on falsetto R&B, Caribbean soca, Brazilian samba, Jamaican dancehall and African soukous. Missy Elliott, Carlos Santana, Patti LaBelle, Scarface, Redman, Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder and The Edge all put in guest appearances, but the sharpest contribution comes from Rah Digga, making explicit political connections between welfare cuts and Bush's war-chest in "Next Generation".