Get 2 Know Wyclef

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With a successive 29 years as a highly esteemed musician, Wyclef has undoubtably influenced the artistry of musicians all over the globe. The unapologetically spoken artist has produced 8 studio albums, over 25 singles, a compilation album, an EP and on March 15 is set to release his new 11-track project, Wyclef Goes Back To School Volume 1.

With his ethos centred around nurturing and growth, Wyclef has persistently made efforts to make positive changes, whether that be by holding charitable events, running for presidency in Haiti or just using his music to make others aware of actualities that don’t get enough media coverage.

He has visited universities and colleges which inspired his last album and most recently has released Baba, his single featuring Singer/Songwriter and Producer Kofi Black. A skilfully engaging and catchy track with an in-depth insight into Black History.

Wyclef

Rae: You said that you have come from the impossible… You’ve gone from not knowing what electricity was and riding a donkey to school, to ascertaining the penultimate goal for all musicians and becoming musical royalty. A highly esteemed and established artist, you’ve worked with Mary J Blige, Whitney Houston and Beyoncé, to name a very select few. What advice would you give to upcoming and emerging artists reading this who aspire to attain the mass level of success that you’ve had for the last 29 years?

Wyclef: Firstly, thank you… Just mad love… I think if you were to have a screen shot of me right now you’d see me in the car with literally my Logic and my keyboard in my hand. I think the first part of it is just the general love for the art. True artistry means that you would just do this no matter what, you know what I mean? I tell kids you have to be fearless to what you really believe, you have to be a leader and not a follower and usually when you’re a leader… It’s gonna take you longer… but you’re going to last. Trends come and they go, so if you notice 29 years ago when we were coming out, The Fugees, Beyoncé, Jay Z… The style Boom Bap was coming out, that evolved into different things, people in their mind never thought that the Boom Bap would blow… When they were doing that, I was doing the Carnival, like what Drake is doing now… For me I’d tell the kids originality and passion is always key.

Rae: Not only are you a musician but also a humanitarian who’s consistently making efforts to make a change in society and in the world. You mentioned, “in order to make the future better for the next generation, we must always tell the children the truth”. You’ve just dropped your single Baba with Kofi Black, which is an auditive and visual lesson in the truth about Black History. Can you explain the creative process behind the making of Baba, and why you felt now was a good time to release the video?

Wyclef:  Well I think for me I live in the modern day current events. I never step up and do a song just to do a song, so like when I did Dave Chapelle, If I Was President, we were going through something in the climate. I feel that politically around the world we’re going through something and we have to address it. I think the idea of racism is a world thing it’s not just an American thing… I say this after spending a little time with Nelson Mandela. I had a chance to have a one on one with Mandela which a lot of people don’t get, you know? One of the things I was curious about was how can you forgive somebody after all that’s done? How, if somebody killed my sister, am I supposed to sit with them in the same court with some kind of understanding? What kind of understanding is that? I’m from the streets!.. It’s an eye for an eye… And what I got from that was the teachings of Mandela, history of the past is an ugly thing, so at the end of the day the only way to deal with it is to confront it head on. The process of Baba was to confront the idea of the past head on, because my daughter’s 13 and when she goes to school on Black History Month they teach her about the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, and they might teach her a little bit about Martin Luther King, but the school don’t necessarily go into depth of world leaders. When you talk about Black History Month, we can’t just talk about slave trade or the slaves in America, we have to talk about the complete slave trade and the origin of it. So what I did was, after I took my DNA test and found out the majority of my DNA is Nigerian, I wanted to do like a slave trail. Like what happens if from Nigeria I ended up in America?.. What if I was the guy? The idea behind the video is that you can put us on the noose, but we ain’t gonna stay on the noose… The metaphor is to break to freedom, so if you could see, I did not stay on the noose throughout the whole video. You know what’s so gangster about that video that a lot of people don’t notice? If you look deep into it… We’re at the back of my mansion. I literally hung myself at the back of my mansion, so what does that mean? I remember the police stopping me for mistaken identity in LA because they thought I was a Blood, because of the way my bandana was, and somebody just robbed a gas station. They didn’t even look at my face, they just identified me by a bandana. At the end of the day it don’t matter if you got money or not, it’s like they look at you a certain way by the colour of your skin and we need that to change, but in order for that to change we have to confront it. Another thing if you watch the video in depth, you’ll see that I have the combination of white people and black people, look very carefully. Don’t feel like the black revolution or the black movement was just black in America, it took all of us to make it happen… So that’s the idea behind Baba.

Rae: You said that the best part of your career is being inspired by a new generation over and over again. On March 15 we’re going to see the release of your new project, Wyclef Goes Back To School, how important do you think it is for current and future generations to listen to music that’s not only audibly pleasing but educational as well?

Wyclef: There’s very different aspects to Wyclef Goes Back To School… I remember being in the studio with Michael Jackson and one thing I learned from him is that he always said that the pulse is in the youth… Forever we think like a child, and what that means is at the end of the day when I look at the climate of music, it could be Kodak Black for example… and he’s dancing with his mum on Instagram to a record called Lady Haiti by Wyclef Jean, where did he find this song? Do you know what I mean? So at the end of the day, I feel that we’re living in a world where if it’s Spotify or any other streaming service, there’s so much music that goes through it that you have to filter through it all and at the end of the day if you have one song on Spotify or on iTunes, the algorithm automatically tells you if you like Mary J Blige then you’re going to like this song… And then this song. This is good but there’s also a component about it which is missing. How did Wyclef get discovered? How did Beyoncé or Jay Z get discovered? How come we’re from the 90’s and we’re still in this situation? It’s because someone took time out to develop it… So the idea of Wyclef Goes Back To School is it’s a new curation of a playlist that’s produced by the actual producer that discovers talent. So at the end of the day the first one is Wyclef Goes Back To School in America, I look forward to doing a Wyclef Goes Back To School UK, and Africa. Whenever you pick them up I want you to go and search and be like woah, there may be someone on the project that only has 100 views but they might be dope and encourage you to search more about that artist! All the labels do is focus on data which is based around Youtube views and everything else. While we’re doing that, there’s a big curation of kids that are in their last year of high school and going into college, then you have a bunch of kids that are just on the street trying to find their way and doing their thing. But you have to understand for every one kid that makes it, there are a million kids that don’t make it, what I’ve learnt is the same way I can inspire you is the same way you can inspire me. The curation of the playlist’s done by the producer  and not just by Spotify, its going into depth and producing these kids. When I’m taking my daughter to school and she’s bumping her playlist against my playlist, it’s the biggest conversation!

Rae: You’ve dropped a track with Naughty boy and Ray Blk, and recently we saw you doing a guitar cover to Afro B’s Drogba… Is there anyone else in the UK music scene that you listen to, or that you’ve heard of and are feeling their sound?

Wyclef: You know as a producer I more listen to the sounds, I will study it, like I studied Garage when it came out, everything that ya’ll have sonically as a producer I’m constantly listening to what would be like the next vibe. Fuse is my good friend, so I’ve been up on the Afrobeat movement, I guess since I was a kid it was around but it just wasn’t called Afrobeats yet, so I’ve always been on it. Ya’ll got an artist… do you know Kojey Radical? My man put me up on him, he remind me of like The Fugees and how we were in 1997 but just reborn again in 2019… You know what I mean? I think lyrically his wordplay is pretty insane, I always like underground artists like that, that always have vibes… You gotta understand I’m from the underground era, people ask what I mean by that and I say I’m a jazz musician first. So when it’s time for talent I dig into the core of the music… There’s an artist with a track called Badman… I’m trying to think of his name, Kojo Funds? He reminds me of Childish Gambino but a bit different… He is dope dope dope! He’s one of those artists I would do something crazy for… The collaboration would be nuts, I love his style.