Wyclef Jean On Haiti

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I left Haiti when I was nine years old and came to the States, but I always say that the music that I make is a reflection of what I remember from my childhood there.

I think it gives me a natural sense of discipline and the ability to be a hard worker. If you look on the map, Haiti is right next to Santo Domingo, and at one time it was really one place, you know? Then you have Jamaica and Puerto Rico. I think musically all of that stuff in the Caribbean--the rhythm and the drums--you just get a natural sense of it. Sometimes, when I'm with my friends in the studio, I start to play salsa or merengue, and they're like, "Man, you're playing like you're from Puerto Rico or something!" I don't know how I'm able to do that, but I know it has something to do with the Caribbean. It's just naturally in my blood. I think that carries out through all of the music I do. Somehow, you can always hear that little island influence.

I think music is the main tool for social change. I think it makes you look at a place differently. A lot of times what happens is that you only see one side of the news, you only hear one side of what's going on, and there's a whole other side. What music has been able to do through the years is bring awareness to people. There are problems [Haiti] is going through, but [music] is how we can help it.

I came up into the music scene in 1993 with a group called the Fugees. Hip-hop was the stepping-stone for what we did. I feel that hip-hop today is stronger than it's ever been, and it's going to keep growing.

--Reported by Alex Smith