Wyclef Jean believes black music heals and connects the world
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Wyclef Jean deserves all his flowers! The Haitian recording artist exploded onto the scene as a member of legendary hip hop group The Fugees, alongside Lauryn Hill and Pras Michael, and has since created meaningful music with substance.
With three Grammy Awards and a Golden Globe nomination to his name, Jean is the very definition of talent. Most recently, he released his hard-hitting song called “Stop The Hatred” amid Asian American attacks, and called on Asian-American rapper MC Jin to drive the point home.
REVOLT met with the Fugees member for Black Music Month to discuss his new record, his favorite genres of black music, his favorite black musicians, whether black artists get the credit they deserve, and more. ! Read below.
How important is a song like “Stop The Hatred” during this time?
“Stop the hate” is so important because when we see our brothers and sisters turning on each other, it is important for us to do something. We must help each other because we are all fighting for the same cause. It’s one of those records that calls everyone to come together. We all bring something important to the table.
How did you bond with MC Jin?
I first saw Jin when I was a final judge on BET’s “106 & Park’s” Freestyle 20 years ago. I heard Jin spit out his bars and immediately knew he was going to do something important for the Asian community. It reminded me of myself and what I was doing at the time. In that same episode of Freestyle Friday, Jin announced that he signed with Ruff Ryders. I was asked to work with Jin and came up with an idea that I thought would have worked for him. That’s how I ended up producing his first single “Learn Chinese”.
How important is the unity between the Black and AAPI communities at this time?
Being united makes us stronger. There is so much more we can accomplish when we come together.
Why do you think these communities historically pitted themselves against each other?
When you have people who come from different parts of the world, there is a certain type of fear factor that sets in. This means that you are now looking to protect yourself from people who speak the same language, eat the same food, and look like you. . Anything outside of this can seem like a threat to your tribe. More naturally, when you have two powerful groups of people trying to protect theirs, we confront each other in a way that would cause tension because the system cannot fight us as a whole. So in a way, it’s like they let them fight.
Who are your favorite black musicians – past or present – and why?
Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley. It is really the grown-ups who broke barriers, defended something and did not let themselves be put in a music box. They transcend genres.
What history of black music are you doing?
I should let people tell me, but I believe that I created music with the Fugees and by myself, it is very crucial for the history of black music. Fugees was unlike any other band of its time. the Carnival album broke all gender barriers.
As a black man in America today, how can you keep pushing the narrative?
I can carry on being true to myself and the music I make is 100% for people.
What makes black music so special to society?
Black music brings a certain level of soul and color to our society. If we think of Jazz, Hip Hop, Rap and R&B, it often comes from artists who want to share a story about something they had to overcome. Music heals and connects people. When I arrived in America, I needed an outlet to learn English. I relied a lot on Hip Hop music for that.
Do you think black artists, nationally and internationally, get the credit they deserve? Do you feel like you have?
Historically, artists who are internationally credited have done so because they connect with their fans. As an artist, you need to understand what your fans expect from you and you need to offer them that and more. The black artists that I see doing this nationally and internationally are doing it in their sleep.
What is your favorite genre of black music?
My roots are in jazz, but of course I enjoy rap and hip hop because when I came to America as a kid, those were my outlets. Rap is how I learned to speak English.
What does it mean to mark “Le Chi”?
Mark “Le Chi” was an amazing experience. Working with Lena Waithe and the whole team is an honor. It’s a great opportunity to show what black composers can do in Hollywood.
Will we ever have the Wyclef / will.i.am Verzuz?
I never say never.