T.I. Kick-Starts Wyclef Jean's LP; Mary J. Blige, Akon Tagging Along

Chamillionaire, Will.I.Am, Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger, assorted family members also helping boost Immigrant's status.

MIAMI — He hasn't changed his name to Mr. Jean, but lately it seems Wyclef has been as far from the spotlight as his former Fugees mate Lauryn Hill.

"It's been a minute for me," he admitted to MTV News a couple of weeks ago on the set of T.I.'s "You Know What It Is" video (see "T.I. Getting Ahead Of His Selves With Second Clip From Alter-Ego LP").

But 'Clef recently connected with T.I. while he was in Atlanta and asked the "Bankhead" rapper to put him up in a studio while he was in town. Tip acquiesced and let 'Clef set up shop at a studio he could use all by himself.

The result? Not only did he produce T.I.'s next single (and some other potential future hits that didn't make T.I. vs. T.I.P.; see "T.I. Taking On T.I.P. With Help From Eminem, Justin Timberlake"), but Wyclef also kick-started his next album, The Carnival 2: Memoirs of an Immigrant — the sequel to his debut, The Carnival — which is tentatively due in September. The new set follows 2003's The Preacher's Son and 2004's international-flavored Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101.

"My sound is definitely missing out there, it's obvious," 'Clef said. "And basically, I just want to regroup with my family. I got my little brother with me — whenever you hear me say, 'All hands on deck,' that's my brother Sedeck. And you know, of course, Jerry Wonder forever ... you just have to, as a producer, sometimes step at it from the outside, see what's going on inside, and attack it with a fresh edge."

Family aside, 'Clef also recruited a range of guests, including T.I. — who is tentatively scheduled to co-executive produce the project with Wyclef — Chamillionaire, Paul Simon, Akon and Mary J. Blige.

The first single is still a work in progress, but according to Wyclef, it will feature the Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am and the Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger.

"The whole idea is [like] the 'Porgie and Bess' joint, the Gershwin [opera]; so as a composer, we come in and compose all this material and then we throw the artist in the setting," 'Clef explained of the yet-untitled single. "So we put them in the world and now everyone has to perform in that world.

"My cousin came with ... an old [1965] sample from Haiti," he continued. "It's an old Compa; Compa is the rhythm of my country. So imagine now, we land in the West with this old-time [beat] and we go, 'Check, Will,' and Will is like, 'OK, this is what you working with?' And he jumps on it and throws some drums on top of it. Then I'm like, 'OK, this is what you working with?' Then I go in the booth and start jumping in. He goes in and starts jumping. And then next thing you know, Nicole happens to be there. Like, ain't nothing rehearsed because we went in on a vibe."

Wyclef won't have any of his former group members onboard for Carnival 2, and he didn't have an update on a Fugees reunion either. But another one of his Fugees mates, Pras, recently told MTV News not to expect anything from the trio anytime soon.

"Just keep praying," he said at the red carpet at the Maxim Hot 100 party in New York earlier this month. "But right now it doesn't look too good. I would love to see it happen."