Wyclef Jean: International Zone Coaster

While the world steadily inquires about reunions, The Preacher’s Son stays on his international grizzly. Lead Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean was the first member of the group to embark on a solo career [The Carnival (1997)], and he proved ambitious and eclectic on his own. As the Fugees hung in limbo, Wyclef became Hip-Hop’s unofficial […]

While the world steadily inquires about reunions, The Preacher’s Son stays on his international grizzly. Lead Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean was the first member of the group to embark on a solo career [The Carnival (1997)], and he proved ambitious and eclectic on his own. As the Fugees hung in limbo, Wyclef became Hip-Hop’s unofficial multicultural conscience; a seemingly omnipresent activist, he assembled or participated in numerous high-profile charity benefit shows for a variety of causes, including aid for his native Haiti. Wyclef’s political consciousness also informed in his recordings, which fused Hip-Hop with as many different styles of music as he could get his hands on. In addition to his niche as Hip-Hop’s foremost global citizen, Clef was also a noted producer and remixer who worked with an impressive array of pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop talent, including Whitney Houston, Santana, and Destiny’s Child, among many others.With no Fugees reunion still in sight, Wyclef is continuing to focus on his solo projects; which includes a new album Memoirs of an Immigrant and helping aid his hometown of Haiti. AllHipHop.com: How are you?Wyclef: I’m good. How are you?AllHipHop.com: Great thanks.  So let’s get right into your new album…Wyclef: Well, you know how Carlos Santana has Supernatural and Quincy Jones has Back On The Block? Well, this is Wyclef Jean, Memoirs of an Immigrant. This is the song-writing EP that everybody has been waiting for, where I go ahead and put all this mad music together and then find the sickest cast to perform on a piece of music. It’s crazy! AllHipHop.com: You’ve collaborated with so many people in your time. Collaboration wise, what are we to expect on this record?Wyclef: I won’t really call them collaborations. Collaborations often occur when you call someone and be like, “Yeah let’s collab.” However, with this album, I already had the vibes written and the energy in place and I just went and found a believable cast. So you can expect Wyclef and T.I. you know? T.I. comes in over a guitar that Wyclef is playing. Wyclef sings on the right side of the speaker whilst T.I rhymes on the left side. Every time I sing a line he rhymes a line. It’s sick! We also have Chamillionaire on a joint called “Immigration” cause it’s a serious topic back home in Haiti, and of course the return of Mary J. [Blige] and Wyclef with the 911 everyone is waiting for. Then you have Clef and Shakira rhythm; which is a new sound I’ve come up with called the Columbian Swing. It’s a sound that has a bit of an Indian twang to it. It’s mad, trust me. AllHipHop.com: You and T.I. seem to have struck up a real friendship…Wyclef: Yeah he is one of my co-executive producers for this album. You know me as a producer, I get to bond with great artists. The bond just came naturally between me and T.I. We just clicked. AllHipHop.com: You’ve also worked with Akon. Why did you choose “Sweetest Girl” as the first single off the album?Wyclef: The music game is like a game of chess. Akon and I go back in the days of the Fugees. He is kind of like my little brother. He even flew 26 hours to come do the video. It’s like, I’m from Haiti and I have a style and he is from Africa (Senegal) and he has his style. When I heard his sound, heard his flow, I knew that we had to work together at some point. For me, the first joint had to be perfect and feel right. We both had to do a record together so people can understand the swagger, “This is what Clef does. Now we understand.” Think of it as Haiti with Senegal. We also have Weezy from New Orleans. It was the best of swaggers put together, but on a record where we can actually sing and you can feel the emotion. It’s some real stuff being talked about. AllHipHop.com: Do you consider Lil Wayne the best rapper out there?Wyclef: He’ definitely one of the best, his work ethic is probably the best right now bar none. He’s definitely killing it right now.AllHipHop.com: Now we are in the digital age where more ‘ringtone’ music and disposable songs seem to be in fashion; do you worry you will find it hard to stay relevant?Wyclef: Well I tested the waters with the Shakira track [“Hips Don’t Lie”] and that did well. So I think I’ll be ok [Laughs]AllHipHop.com: You have been in the music business for so many years now. How do you feel about its current state?Wyclef: I mean it changes. The business changes. Things may change but the struggle and drama people go through is still going on. As long as I focus on my part and what I bring to the music industry, I don’t really worry about whatever else is going on. AllHipHop.com: You’re last two albums didn’t do so well commercially as some of your previous work. Why do you think that is?Wyclef: Every album is a reflection of what I was going through. You know what I mean? When I did Masquerade I had just lost my father, so then after that I did The Preachers Son. Everything I do usually appeals to the masses but those two albums I think were kind of therapy for me and dealt with personal demons that I was going through.AllHipHop.com: I know that your late dad was a man of the church. I’m assuming that that had a whole heap of inspiration on you also…Wyclef: Yeah definitely, with my father being a minister. Pastor’s kids are supposed to be the worst kids; don’t think that because my dad’s a minister that I won’t kill you, I’ll kill you! What he did was he showed me spirituality, which is the most important thing. You can have everything but if you don’t have no spirituality and no culture, money doesn’t equal respect and culture. So he taught me the spiritual side of it. The spiritual side is to know your culture and where you’re from. Without him I probably wouldn’t be here, I’d be lost definitely.AllHipHop.com: Within your music you have always outlined the struggles of your country as well as for refugees. Is that still important to you now?Wyclef: That is the most important thing for me. You know you watch the BBC and you see there version of everything that is going on around the world and the opinions people have against refugees but without my past and me being a refugee, I wouldn’t even be hear right now, you know what I mean? There would never have been no “Fugees”AllHipHop.com: Ok so as you have brought up the Fugees. What is the current state of your relationship with Lauryn Hill? Will the Fugees ever make another album?Wyclef: Right now? No. At this point I really think Lauryn needs psychiatric help. Once she gets better I think that would definitely be a possibility but until she gets help and admits she has a problem, no one can help her. At this point I really think it will take an act of God to change her.AllHipHop.com: When did you last speak to Lauryn?Wyclef: I haven’t spoke to her in like what? I think it’s been two years now. AllHipHop.com: Can you not help her? Can you not reach out and offer her help?Wyclef: I stopped reaching out to Lauryn because it got very confusing, you know? I would never know who and what personality I would get on that particular day. AllHipHop.com: Different personalities?Wyclef: Yeah. I think Lauryn is Bi-Polar. AllHipHop.com: What are your current personal feelings towards Lauryn? You both have a very complex history…Wyclef: I mean I think the people who were booking her for these shows recently need to be questioned. Why were they booking her when she’s in this state? Why is she keeping everyone waiting 2-3 hours before she comes out to perform? Why has she got blue eye shadow on one side of the face and green eye shadow on the other? She looks like a clown. I mean come on, You’ve seen the pictures, right?AllHipHop.com: Yeah. It’s really sad to see her like this….Wyclef: Quote me as saying this “Clef say’s Lauryn is Bi-Polar. She need’s help.” Maybe she’ll read this or it will get back to her and she will realize that, Damn she really does need help. I’ll even pay for the Psychiatrist myself. If she can get better it would be a great thing. I’ll pay for the Psychiatrist and I’ll even give her money to record another Fugees album and once it becomes a hit; she can pay me back. [Laughs]AllHipHop.com: There were rumours that Akon, yourself and another female were going to put a group together and make it the new Fugees?Wyclef: That’s never going to happen. You can’t make another Fugees.  The fans would never accept that. They would never go for that.AllHipHop.com: Do you consider yourself the most relevant member of the Fugees at this current point?Wyclef: I have been the most active and visual over the years. Sure. But as far as relevance; we are all still relevant and all hopefully still have a lot more to give and do musically in our lives.  AllHipHop.com: Ok so music aside; you’ve also started up your own foundation called Yele Haiti. Could you give us a little info on what it is about?Wyclef: I was raised in Haiti and I moved to New York when I was 10 years-old. We started this foundation because there’s a lot of gang violence in my country, kids fighting and what not. I wanted to go in and talk to these guys and give them alternative programs. So I went in and gave them just that, as well as sponsorship for schools. We empowered the youth where they had to give up their firearms and in return we produced recordings from them. I have a television station so I was able to put them on T.V. Then they were able to sell their CDs and become like a natural network.