Masquerade

On his third solo album, Wyclef Jean lays bare the facts of life when it comes to surviving in the 'hood—both projects- and industry-wise.

On his third solo album, Wyclef Jean lays bare the facts of life when it comes to surviving in the 'hood—both projects- and industry-wise. He uses as a template his own experiences dating back to his youth as a Haitian immigrant transplanted to New York. Once again, the rapper/ producer colors in the word pictures ("the guitar became my muscle" from "80 Bars"; "the good life . . . you could live it too if you own your publishing," from the Four Seasons-referencing "Oh What a Night") with a mix of hip-hop, R&B, and reggae. These are unexpectedly spiced with a Far East flute (the spiritual "Peace God"), a reworking of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," and violin (a hardcore posse title track with M.O.P.). But when Jean cuts to the core, as he does on the soul ballad "One Last Chance" (with City High's Claudette Ortiz) and "Daddy" (dedicated to the artist's late father), he really gets down to the heart of the matter.—GM