In the midst of recording his next project, a self-titled album slated for spring 2010, Wyclef Jean decided to revisit his hip-hop roots on the newly released "DJ Drama Presents Wyclef Jean Aka Toussaint: St. Jean From the Hut to the Projects to the Mansion." Issued Nov. 10 on Jean's own Carnival House Records through Megaforce/Sony Music, the EP bows at No. 36 this week on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
The 13-track EP finds the MC/songwriter/producer adopting the persona of Toussaint St. Jean, loosely based on the 18th-century Haitian revolutionary hero Toussaint L'Ouverture. Hosted by DJ Drama, the set of all-new material features Timbaland, Eve, Lil Kim and an electrifying collaboration with Cyndi Lauper.
"When you get to a certain point in your career, people forget where you came from," Jean says of the EP's concept. "So now, Toussaint is going to show everyone my skills and how I got started in hip-hop. Just in case you thought Clef was dead and he don't spit: Here's the reinvention."
In addition to the assertive "Warrior's Anthem," the EP's other standout tracks include "The Streets Pronounce Me Dead," which finds Jean addressing all naysayers, and the Lauper-assisted "Slumdog Millionaire," on which she sings, "We don't care what you say, from the hut to the projects to the mansion, now a millionaire/If you come from the hood, expect nothing less/I wanna see you get your money."
The point of the EP, Jean adds, is that "whatever you want to do, you can accomplish. If I came from nothing and became something, if I was chosen for greatness, then so can you."
Jean is among the list of artists chosen to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert Dec. 11 with Will Smith, Toby Keith and Donna Summer. In the meantime, he's already recorded several songs for his upcoming studio album, including features with Lil Wayne ("Seventeen") and Natasha Bedingfield ("Tonight"). Also on his guest wish list: Young Jeezy and Amy Winehouse.