Wyclef Jean announced recently the release of an upcoming indie EP titled From The Hut To The Projects To The Mansion, a concept project he is putting together with mixtape king, DJ Drama.
Toussaint St. Jean is the title character of Wyclef’s new EP, suggested to Wyclef by his friend and collaborator T.I. The character is loosely based on the 18th-century Haitian revolutionary hero, Toussaint L’Ouverture, a figure who brought Haiti to significance on the international stage.
Inhabiting the role of Toussaint on these songs, Wyclef recreates himself in the spirit of a noble fighter, a man who says exactly what is on his mind. Toussaint’s rhymes hit hard, in a “militant style,” and make his words felt — and remembered.
So what is the difference between Wyclef and Toussaint? “Toussaint is more direct,”Wyclef says. “He ain’t going to sugarcoat nothing. Whatever he’s thinking, he’s going to tell you. It’s like, ‘I’ve still got this machete — my tongue is sharper than it’s ever been.’ ”
To help create suitable musical settings for the grisly tales Toussaint has to tell, Wyclef turned to DJ Drama, who has worked extensively with T.I. “I asked myself, ‘Who’s the toughest guy out there?'” Wyclef says. “Then I said, well, DJ Drama is pretty badass. So I called him and asked if he’d be interested in doing a mixtape. He heard what I was up to and he said, ‘We gotta do a book — this is a novel!’ He got excited, and it became more like an EP than a mixtape.”
Tracks like “Warriorz,” “Letter From the Penn” and “Toussaint vs. Bishop” paint riveting pictures, “hood stories,” as Wyclef describes them, of street life and its consequences. The gripping storytelling in those songs recalls the raw environments in Haiti and Brooklyn from which Wyclef emerged — “from the hut to the projects to the mansion,” as he memorably puts it in “Slumdog Millionaire.” It’s a story arc that these songs make compelling.
Wyclef views the message of “Toussaint St. Jean” as “not everything that appears bad is really bad, because the real bad men move in silence. So be careful what you emulate, because it’s could get you six feet deep. If you don’t see me with a gun, it doesn’t mean that the guy with the gun is badder than me. I’ve been in those communities, but you’ve got to rise past that world.”
The upcoming EP features guests such as Eve, Timbaland, Maino, Cyndi Lauper, and others. And, is slated to hit stores November 10th.
As always with Wyclef, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. “Toussaint St. Jean” represents just the first step on the road to another album he intends to release in 2010 titled simply wyclefjean. The album will reflect a three-dimensional portrait of an artist for whom the gritty sagas of Toussaint St. Jean are just one part.
Below is the track for From The Hut To The Projects To The Mansion:
1. Interlude – From The Hut, To The Projects, To The Mansion
2. Warrior’s Anthem
3. The Streets Pronounce Me Dead
4. Slumdog Millionaire ft. Cyndi Lauper aka Luscious Loo
5. Interlude – Every Now & Then
6. Walk Away
7. More Bottles ft. Timbaland
8. You Don’t Wanna Go Outside
9. Toussaint vs. Bishop
10. Interlude – The Struggle
11. We Made It
12. Suicide Love ft. Eve
13. Letter From The Penn
14. Robotic Love
15. Gangsta Girl
16. Interlude – Tell The Kids The Truth
17. The Shottas