Q&A with Wyclef Jean

  • Share
  • Read Later

Wyclef Jean, formerly of Rap group The Fugees, rehearses for "A Very Special Christmas from the White House," on December 14, 2000

Q: You've been quoted as saying "No matter what I do, I'm a Hip Hop artist," yet you've managed to introduce and fuse so many different elements — Reggae, Ska, Rock, Pop, Disco, Country and Folk — into a genre that is often perceived as narrow. How do you answer criticism to your genre-splicing?

A: I think, with me, I came up into the music scene 1993 with a group called the Fugees. Hip Hop was the stepping stone for what we did. When we came in, I wanted to be known as a Hip Hop musician. If you're a musician, you can play all forms of music. Hip Hop means the background of where we're from; Hip Hop the culture. The street culture, that's what we were raised on. The fusion of music should have no limits, because it's all music. I wanted to take out of people's minds that when they hear Hip Hop, they automatically assume just two turntables and a microphone.

Q: Your personal take on Hip Hop leans towards being positive without being preachy. What is your impression of Hip Hop today?

A: I feel Hip Hop today is stronger than its ever been, and its going to keep growing. I think it's going to go back to the Native Tongue vibe in a minute. I feel that there's still a heavy sense of consciousness in it — people like Common Sense, Mos Def — but I can't lie to you, in my tape deck it's all about Bennie Siegel, I love the street vibe of it. What people have to understand, Rap music is just a reflection of the environment, and I feel as the environment changes, it will also change with it.

Q: You've worked with such a wide array of performers, including Bono, Bob Dylan, Roberta Flack, Kenny Rogers and my all time hero, Gene Simmons of Kiss. What was that like?

A: Incredible, you know what I mean? My tongue is actually as long as his. I was proud of that.

Q: Is there anyone else you'd currently really like to work with?

A: Definitely. My passion right now, where I'm at being in the game since 1993, is just developing new artists and getting them going.

Q: What music are you currently excited about?

A: I look for whatever is "the next," but feels like the "the old" — like Alicia Keys. There's a group that we've got, the Product GNB right now. They sang with Carlos Santana and I'm pretty amped about them. They're two young thugs out of Hempstead, and they're just singing and pouring their hearts out. I get amazed by stuff like that.

Q: What do you think of the current Mainstream?

A: When we say 'Mainstream,' there are different levels of mainstream. There's the credible mainstream, which will be here forever, but then there's the mainstream which we like when we're from age nine to fifteen. Once we're fifteen, we're like "hey, what are these people saying? Give us something with some lyrical continuity in it!"

Q: What's next for you?

A: Right now, I've got my cousin, Me Jerry Wonder. We got two major labels going — we got the Booga Basement label with a group called City High, that's one of our groups — me and Jerry. Then I have a deal with Clive Davis, Clef Records, and we're about to put the Product GNB out. I already started my next album, it's called .