|interview by Thato Dadson
WHO?MAG: Tell me about Wyclef, the artist.
Wyclef Jean: I mean, there’s no such thing…you know what I mean? You could never sum up what you do. When I look back at what Quincy Jones did, who is one of my idols and who’s still working, your lifetime work will be determined by the length of the marathon. I feel a lot of people are getting guys, but they’re only, it’s still, forty yard dash in. Do you know what I mean? The marathon is like the long haul. But I always tell people I’m the kid that went from the hut, to the projects, to the mansion. That’s just the story of Wyclef. We got the EP out right now with DJ Drama. It came in at #1 on iTunes. My alter-ego is called “Toussaint St. Jean”, so that’s sort of like the hip-hop side of Wyclef. We bought it back; everybody that got that blunted on reality, that “The Score”, that love “The Carnival” one – is definitely gonna love this one. This is like going back to just the essence. You know, sometimes you just do so many big records, like I be breaking records, like the Shakira record broke, like, you know the records. When I write certain records they break history to the point where sometimes people don’t realize that it’s really hip-hop doing that. Meaning like, if I never got that break with The Fugees, then I probably would have never had that chance. So understand the force of hip-hop is so strong, like there you got it, like Wyclef, the same cat that produced The Fugees, writes the biggest records of all times for Shakira. So, it was important for this tape to go back to the essence and show them what I used to do. Back in high school, I was a battle rapper. The backpack, the killing every emcee with sixteen lines, (thirty-two thousand lines), so the whole tape is a reminisce of going back to the essence. I got with Drama when I was working with T.I. Me and Tip was in the studio, we was doing our record and then I connected with Drama and we stayed connected. And I knew if I wanted to do a tape, (it’s not), when you pick up this EP, it’s nobody’s beats on it. We wanna do something different, so it’s all original music. We got some crazy features on it, like Cyndi Lauper, we got Maino, we got Eve (Eve sound crazy!), we got Kim sounding like she’s part of Junior Mafia again, you know what I mean? So, it’s serious.
WHO?MAG: What makes the EP different from the past albums and EP’s?
Wyclef Jean: The EP is different because this is a hip-hop EP. Usually, past The Carnival, all of my EP’s have been World Music EP’s with a bit of hip-hop on it. Alright, so you could be like, ok, track 7 is a hip hop song. Then, you be like, well, track 8 Wyclef go back to the World Music, you know what I mean? This EP is straight up hip-hop EP. So, if you a lover of hip-hop and you like, ‘man do Clef still spit? Do he got it?’, I think that’s the EP you need to listen to. It will show you my essence, and the whole EP’s a novel. So when you pick it up, it’s like you’re listening to a novel. So whenever you see Wyclef, aka Toussaint St. Jean tagged to it, you know the movement is definitely hip-hop. You dig?
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Cyndi Lauper for the “Slumdog Millionaire” track?
Wyclef Jean: I mean Slumdog Millionaire is a joint that I did, (shout out to my man Delivery Boy/Warrior Gang, you know what it is). He came with the back track for that. Cyndi Lauper, I always been a fan. So like, when I hear, MIA, you know what I mean, like the swagger of her voice is just remind me of Cyndi Lauper. But I was like, yo, how big would it be man, if we got Cyndi for a mixtape EP. I was like, you that would really shut it down. We wrote in this hook, and she came in the studio man and she’s – I mean it’s Cyndi Lauper. Like, you don’t get bigger than that. Like, sometimes, like people be forgettin’, but these people man, they backgrounds in the music library that they got. You know what I mean? It’s gonna take us like a century to catch up to that.
WHO?MAG: Explain the “Warriors” movement.
Wyclef Jean: I mean we got the movement online, you know what I mean? I started a movement. You know, my first movement was Refugee Camp. You saw what I did with that musically. You know the next movement I got now is called, “The Warriors”. And The Warriors basically, it symbolizes people that come up from struggle. So The Warriors represent people that come up from struggle. So, like, but we not really saying like, ‘you from the hood so you the baddest. If you from the hood, you don’t gotta tell me you from the hood. I could see it in your eyes, you from the hood. If you from the hut I could see it in your eyes. And sometimes, we try to use the hood to play bad, you dig what I’m saying? And the actual man that’s bad, he got you acting like a Gorilla. So the idea of The Warriors, you gotta master your mind and understand that the battlefield that you goin’ in is society, and how you gonna overcome it, and everybody look out for each other like we a gang. And it’s a real gang. It’s just a different gang. On my Twitter, I talk to Bloods, I talk to Crips, I talked to you know, coming from Haiti. I’ve talked to all kinda gang members you could think of. Cause at the end of the day, I look back at my life and said, ‘If I was in Haiti and didn’t get the opportunity, what position would I be in if I seen you at the airport and I needed some food’. So, the idea of The Warriors, whenever you follow the movement, understand that it’s the new movement building around the world. So when I go to Africa, dudes that throwing up the “W” – when you see the sign you see the “W” and you see the “A”, the reason why you see the “A”, a lot of people is like, yo Clef, ya know we see the pyramid and then we see the eye. And it’s like the eye of the dollar, why you associatin’ the movement with the Illuminatai? And I just want you all to really understand the depth of what you seeing? Like, when you see the pyramid and you see the eye on the pyramid, before the eye was the pyramid. The pyramid’s from Egypt. An original Mason is somebody that built things. So understand, before everything, right, it was Africa. So all I’m saying is, at the end of the day, it was all stripped from an original form and then it was just duplicated. So what you think and what you may call it today is what the man got you calling it today. But what it actually represents when you see the “A” and the eye on our joint, we saying that we’re like the pyramid. Like we gonna last forever and ever. So when you see that sign – so when you join a movement, you know, it’s a very serious movement. And we gonna revolutionize the world! We gonna revolutionize the music game again, but we gonna revolutionize the world.
WHO?MAG: How did yhe first deal with Ruffhouse Records come about?
Wyclef Jean: I mean Ruffhouse Records was when independence was independence, you know? Before the major would get involved, like this don’t exist no more. You’re grind right now is on the internet. You gotta build the whole grind yourself, before A&Rs will really look at you. So Ruffhouse Records was a Chris Schwartz and Joe Nicolo. Every label passed on us cause we looked strange to them. They was like. ‘How he gonna play the guitar and be from the hood? That don’t make no sense. We never seen that before, and then this girl is singing this R&B. You know, who gonna buy this thing? What audience is that?’ It confused a lot of people in the beginning.
WHO?MAG: Tell me about the Yele Haiti Foundation.
Wyclef Jean: Yele Haiti is the foundation we created, you know, in ’97 I went to Haiti with The Fugees. We did a big fundraiser and the whole idea was that I wanted to bring self esteem back to kids. I didn’t want to sing about it, I wanted to do something about it,. I’d say four years ago just physically started going on the ground. Currently, (I) gave over 20,000 kids scholarships, I have converted kids that was in gangs that their life is doing better now. We even took over a child prison with kids that were in prison and brought in an exercise drill in the prison got them doing calistetics heavy, got them reading, playing ball, just changing their mentality. So Yele, is like one kid at a time, that’s the whole philosophy that we preach.
WHO?MAG:So the long awaited Fugees Reunion happened on the Dave Chappelle Block Party, Can you tell me about that?
Wyclef Jean: I mean, Dave Chappelle basically is the only guy who could have brought The Fugees back, you know what I mean? I tell people if they want another Fugee album find Dave Chappelle. He the one who brought us to the Block Party. Chappelle got that razzamatazz man, he got that thing about him, you know like, he just come pure. He’s just like,’Yo, I’m a fan yo. Like y’all gotta do…you know…I’m a fan. So are we gonna do this? We gotta do this, right?’ You know? You gotta a way. Dave Chappelle will make you do anything. He got a way where he talk to people and I would say “man, that Dave Chappelle(s) Block Party, man, it felt like a class reunion. You know what I mean? Like, it was like it was a great thing and it was a honor to do. People, when Chappelle was like, the label wouldn’t clear Lauryn Hill, but I got The Fugees, People were like, what? So it was a great thing.
WHO?MAG: Why did it take “Shottas” so long to officially be in the US market?
Wyclef Jean: “Shottas” was always in the U.S. man, it was underground. You could have found it on 14th Street. Y’all just got up on it, man. That movie was circulating the underground for so long to the point where it became legal. Like, you everybody got a copy of Shottas, man. You know, you got the original version with like, the music that was never cleared, cause we was still working on (it). You got the versions where it’s like inserts, and all you see is black, and it’s like, ok, Mike Tyson will be in that area and Mike Tyson never shows up in the movie! But definitely, was a good flick. My man ,Cess Silvera. I mean when you see the movie, you know for us it was just…that movie’s based on karma – like what you do is gonna come back to you. It was fun for us, like being from the Caribbean, man, you know Caribbean people are natural actors. So it was just like, roll the tape. You know, everybody was just having fun with it.
WHO?MAG: Of course the big question is will there ever be another Fugees album?
Wyclef Jean: I mean, well, I’m hoping The Fugees dig this EP. They get focused on the grind. I never say never. I’m from the hut and anything is possible. So meanwhile, while they skatin’ man, I’m gonna try to be a billionaire in like eight years. So stay focused on my work, my grind. You know we got a few things coming out. I did a big endorsement deal with Timberland and Timberland never do endorsement deals. This one’s a good thing because when you pick up a Timberland boot that say Yele Haiti on it, Y-E-L-E Haiti, like all, wherever it’s at, and it’s hard – the Timberlands really look hard, $2 of that go back to tree planting in Haiti, which is dope. We also got Western Union Visa Cards with my face on it. The whole idea with the Western Union card is you paid 5 get 50 out of the card. Great gift cards for the holiday…you sending money away. You immigrants know what I’m talking about. You know what I mean? So, we got a lot of stuff and online we got Carnival House Records, so look out for that. A lot of peoples’ like sending me stuff. The best way to get me your stuff right now is through The Warriors Movement, cause you know we got A&R, we got everything, and a good thing is you know with Carnival House Records we worldwide with iTunes. So it means like, when you come with me, people in Japan are gonna be hearing what it is, and so you might not make money up here yet but you still got a #1 in Japan. So you never know. So, right now the money’s international meaning you gotta get, you gotta do the records to get you the creditability at a block. But keep in mind, beyond the block though is where the food is at. You could take the stories that the kids idolize, “Scarface”, you know they sit there, they wanna be Scarface. Now I got the real Scarface house – just so you know. But they wanna be Scarface. When they wanna be Scarface, even in that story they’ll show you that the dude had to go beyond the block if he was gonna make big moves. And the thing is, same applies with music. Like, you can do but so much on the block. Take American Gangster; he knew to do what he had to do. He had to get the hell out of America and really enterprise. Same thing with music. When you pumping that music homey and girls- make sure that you can visualize people all over the world, like Michael Jackson, dancing and singing that song. Cause that way, you can actually make some money and then go back and help the block. Real talk right there. Warrior Gang.