If you believe the hype, the Fugees have the Midas Touch. Anything either
Wyclef Jean or Lauryn Hill touches turns into gold, platinum even. Now,
with his debut album, the oft-ignored third member of the group --
Prazekiel Michel, a.k.a. Pras -- has stepped up to try and work a little
alchemy of his own.
He aspires to match the cross-cultural creativity of Jean's The
Carnival, to equal
the sultry sophistication of Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,
unfortunately, Pras doesn't possess
either Jean's remarkable musical talent or Hill's charisma and
skill. And then there's his delivery, which is, well, flat (although at least it's a
flatness that's attuned to the zeitgeist. Monotonal rappers are in! Puffy
and Mase being prime examples). But when he attempts to mix social commentary with braggadocio, there is nothing to save him from falling
flat on his face.
The music's not much better (even with the help of guests Canibus, Lenny Kravitz and Mack 10). From lifeless rock samples
("Blue Angels") to
endless funk-lite beats ("Lowriders" and "Frowsey Pt. 2"), this
self-produced album is replete with clichéd pop
formulas, and none of them is even the catchy kind of cliché.
Although what Pras creates is less than innovative, when you paint by
number, you can't help but get one or two pictures right, as demonstrated
by the fact that the album's title-track emerged as a hit last summer.
"Murder Dem" and "What'Cha Wanna Do" are also picture-perfect grooves
destined for radio play. The only moments of true surprise occur on the intro, "Hallelujah," and
"Amazing Grace" (gospel standards sung as gospel standards). Bafflingly,
context provided for their inclusion. They are question marks on an album
otherwise bereft of punctuation.
Although Pras has made a bold attempt to follow in the footsteps of his
fellow Fugees, where Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill have trailblazed, Pras has
taken the road more traveled.