Former “Fugees” Member Drops “J’ouvert” Jan. 27
Wyclef Jean is back on the scene to celebrate mélange that is Caribbean culture in his latest work, “J’ouvert.” The EP, which features artists like Young Thug and Emeli Sande, pays homage to the night before carnival when everyone stays up to dance, drink and party.
Wyclef’s latest foray into hip hop comes after a seven year hiatus from music, where he ran for president of his native Haiti, and took time out to raise his tween daughter.
BOSSIP sat down with the “Carnival” singer at his recent album listening in NYC, and he spoke about his musical influence in hip hop today, his motivations behind his new body of work – and the time Drake supported his relief efforts in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew:
BOSSIP: It’s been a while since we’ve heard from you. How have you been?
Wyclef: “Being in the states, back here in America, and just getting active again, back in the swing of the music industry. So it’s definitely been a slow process getting my brain fully back. And now, with J’ouvert, it just feels fun again.”
BOSSIP: Tell us about J’ouvert. How is it different from your other albums?
Wyclef: “I left Haiti when I was 10 years old. I was raised in Brooklyn first, and J’ouvert is the day before the carnival. And so the idea is, I had an album in 1997 called “The Carnival.” And that album celebrated culture, but from the Pan African aspect. It wasn’t cool at the time to have Spanish music on a record mixed with English music. So J’ouvert is what will be an appetizer to (the album) ‘The Carnival 3.’”
BOSSIP: Who are some of the people you tapped to be featured on J’ouvert?
Wyclef: “On the EP we have Young Thug, we did a record called “I Swear.” We have Nick from Walk The Moon. He’s pretty incredible. We got Emeli Sande, Pusha T, and we’re still developing it. We got Joey Badass, Hall and Oates. So the album is – I call it a celebration of culture.”
BOSSIP: How do you feel your music is influencing the rap world today?
Wyclef: “When I did “The Carnival,” (that inspired) records like Drake’s “One Dance.” Drake saw me and he hugged me for like 30 minutes. He was like ‘Yo, anything that I can do for Haiti,’ just based off his love for “The Carnival.” So, “The Carnival” was a blueprint to what’s happening now with all of this Caribbean infusion…. It’s very inspirational; an artist like Thugger, his first song off his mixtape is called Wyclef Jean. And he said ‘Well you know, you’re one of my greatest inspirations.’ And then when I hear the song, its like a trap beat with a reggae baseline and a rock guitar. This is gumbo, it’s that mixture. It’s that fusion.”
BOSSIP: How has hip-hop changed since your debut album with The Fugees, “The Score”?
Wyclef: “I always tell the kids, innovation is key. And innovation is not popular at the time that you’re doing it. I remember when we were first coming out, we got a lot of flack because according to the part of the hood they were from, meaning the writers, it was like ‘oh – they’re singing songs and doing melodies and playing the guitars and keyboards – that’s not a rap group, that’s called alternative.’ It’s just so funny that this generation of hip-hop today is an all-melodic generation. My daughter is 11, and if she don’t hear the singing hook, she don’t know what you’re talking about.”
This interview was edited for space and clarity.