Wyclef Jean, Life After The Fugees
This week’s episode features legendary musician, rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor Wyclef Jean. Join Brian Rose as he travels to Paris to talk to Wyclef about life after the success of the Fugees.
The Three-Time Grammy Award Winner
This week’s episode features legendary musician, rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor Wyclef Jean. A three-time Grammy Award winner, Wyclef achieved huge success with the Fugees, after having moved from Haiti to the United States at the age of nine.
Born Nel Ust Wyclef Jean on October 17, 1969, Wyclef was one of four children. He grew up in the small town of Croix-des-Bouquets, just outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
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Wyclef, who spoke only Haitian French when he entered the States, quickly learned English from listening to rap music.
In his early teens, music soon became one of Wyclef’s chief interests; majoring in jazz, studying the music business and learning to play more than 15 instruments at his Newark high school. Along with his cousin, Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, and friend Lauryn Hill, Jean also started experimenting with hip hop. In order to afford studio time to record their original compositions, Wyclef worked at a local McDonald’s.
Eventually Wyclef, Pras and Lauryn’s talent came to the attention of music executives and, while they were still minors, they were offered a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1992. They eventually named themselves the Fugees, a shortened version of the word “refugees.”
The Score hits the world stage
With the help of the producer Salaam Remi, they smoothed out their rugged sound and set the template for their breakthrough second album, The Score. Catapulting them to international success in 1996, The Score was six times platinum in the United States, with worldwide sales totaling 17 million. The single “Killing Me Softly” a remake of Roberta Flack’s 1970s hit, stayed at the top of the R&B singles chart for seven months. The Score also earned them two Grammy wins in 1997.
Following the success of The Score, the Fugees toured the world but the group would never record another album, eventually splitting due to personal issues.
After the Fugees broke up, Wyclef released and produced his album The Carnival in 1997, which explored the musical gamut, including a mix of Creole, salsa, reggae, Afro-Cuban, R&B, funk, rap and orchestral selections. The platinum-selling solo album received rave reviews from critics and was a smash-hit in Haiti.
Life After The Fugees
Away from music, Wyclef has made a concerted effort to represent the diaspora he hails from. However, it hasn’t always gone smoothly. The Yele Haiti charity he established in 2001 folded in 2012. Attempts to raise money for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake ended up in the courts and the charity was criticized for repeatedly failing to file tax returns. An investigation concluded that vast amounts of money raised through the charity had gone to Wyclef and his entourage for travel expenses.
In 2010, Wyclef announced he’d be running for president of Haiti in that year’s election. However, his candidacy was refused as he hadn’t been a resident in Haiti for the five prior years.
As it goes to show, Wylef has led a fascinating life and I really appreciated him taking the time to meet me and open up about his life.
If you’re a fan of the Fugees and hip hop in general, you’re going to find this episode fascinating.
Join us as we discuss:
- Paris, Haiti, and Voodoo
- Moving to Brooklyn, Newark, and meeting Lauryn Hill
- Columbia Records, the Fugees, and Yéle Haiti
- Running for President of Haiti, the earthquake and tsunami
- His daughter, success secrets, and Carnival I
- Ready or Not, Pink Floyd, and Beyoncé
- Whitney Houston, Édith Piaf, and Bob Marley
- Jimi Hendrix, Malcolm X, and Dr. Dre