The Score was one of those rare hip-hop albums that came out of nowhere and rewrote the rules. In the aftermath of its success, many pundits predicted that rap would move away from gangsta and toward a richer, more varied existence. Given such heady praise, perhaps it was reasonable that Wyclef Jean, the guitarist and male rapper for the Fugees, decided to follow The Score with a solo project. However,Presents the Carnival comes across like Jean presenting his case that he is the true genius in the Fugees. And he's partially right. He has the ambition and drive common to many great artists, but he lacks the skills to fulfill his vision. Of course, the very fact that he has an original vision makes Jean one of the more compelling figures of late-'90s hip-hop. Not content to rely solely on hip-hop, Jean adds all manners of influences to his music. You can hear reggae, soul, disco, Caribbean rhythms, worldbeat, and opera scattered throughout The Carnival, giving the record the riotous atmosphere of its title. Even so,Jean occasionally tries too hard, forcing disparate genres to mix and spending more time on production than songwriting. But even with all its faults, The Carnival delivers great thrills when operating at full strength, demonstrating that Jean is at least half a genius.