This year, Wyclef Jean's explosive debut solo album, Carnival, turns 20 years old. The record was released just a year after The Fugees's revolutionary, massively influential, and still tragically relevant opus The Score, which blended diegetic street sounds with warped, gritty samples. It flexed all three members' poetic lyrical prowess, and cemented the trio as verifiable hip-hop legends. Carnival was Wyclef's first release under his own name, but he wasn't standing alone: both former Fugees Lauryn Hill and Pras contributed features, as did The Neville Brothers and Bob Marley's backing vocalists, the I-Threes.
Wyclef is celebrating Carnival's anniversary by looking forward; he's prepping the release of its third iteration Carnival III: Road To Clefication. But before Carnival rolls back into town, Wyclef is releasing a new EP, J'ouvert, to break off a preview of the reggae rap sounds he's been cooking up for Carnival III. Ahead of J'ouvert's release tomorrow, he's shared a new track from the project, "Holding on the Edge," with i-D.
Wyclef's distinctively melodic vocals bounce over a buoyant beat that blends rock chords, reggae energy, and atmospheric electronic touches. It's a partnership with Walk the Moon, the Ohio four-piece that takes its name from a Police song. Fitting, as those seminal 80s sounds are precisely what drew Wyclef to the group's music. "When I first heard Walk the Moon, the vocals on some of the tracks reminded me of Sting and Phil Collins. Then, I saw Nick perform and became a great fan and knew this was the band to work with," he tells i-D. "The tracks fits naturally on J'ouvert because reggae and rock are my favorite kinds of music. To me, this sounds like The Police meets Bob Marley."
"Wyclef is one of those truly inspired, ancient-soul artists, and the experience of turning out 'Holding on the Edge' was like uncharted territory for both of us," adds Walk The Moon vocalist and keyboardist Nick Petricca of working with the living legend, whose solo records he "wore out in my car stereo growing up." "We tapped into something futuristic and very personal with this collaboration — took a spaceship back and forth in time, reached deep in the soul, and found a song unlike anything either of us have done before."
Walk the Moon is also due to appear on Carnival III, alongside a bevy of exciting guests across varying genres — among them Afrojack, Avicii, and Wyclef's repeat collaborator Young Thug. Thug named a track after Wyclef on his most recent release, JEFFERY, upon which Wyclef also featured. Thug, too, is featured on J'ouvert, laying verses over the boo-ed up party thumper "I Swear." Wyclef assures there's more to come from the dynamic duo: "When I heard Young Thug's melodies in the studio, we connected because I am the same way when it comes to melodies and hooks. I got a chance to hear more than the trap music. I heard some incredible acoustic records, and that let me know he was connected. I look forward to doing much more with the Thugga. Stay tuned." We absolutely will.
J'ouvert is available for pre-order now.
Text Emily Manning