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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 created meaningful music with substance ever since.
With three Grammy awards and a Golden Globe Award nomination under his belt, Jean is the definition of talent. Most recently, he released his impactful song titled “Stop The Hatred” amidst the Asian American attacks, and tapped Asian-American rapper MC Jin to drive the point home.
REVOLT caught up 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 are getting their credit they deserve, and more! Read below.
How important is a song like “Stop The Hatred” during this time?
“Stop the Hatred” is so important because when we see our brothers and sisters turning against each other, it’s important for us to do something about it. We have to help each other because we’re all fighting for the same cause. This is one of those records that’s calling on everyone to come together. We’re all bringing something important to the table.
How did you link with MC Jin?
I first saw Jin when I was a final judge on BET’s “106 & Park’s” Freestyle Friday 20 years ago. I heard Jin spit his bars and knew right away that he’d be doing something major for the Asian community. He reminded me of myself and what I was doing at the time. On that same episode of Freestyle Friday, Jin announced that he was signed to Ruff Ryders. I got asked to work with Jin and had an idea that I believed would have worked for him. That’s how I ended up producing his first single “Learn Chinese.”
How important is unity between the Black and AAPI communities right now?
Being unified makes us stronger. There is so much more we can accomplish when we come together.
Why do you think those communities have historically been pitted against one another?
When you have people who come from different parts of the world, there’s a certain type of fear factor that sets in. This means you are now looking for protection from the people who speak the same language, eat the same food, and look like you. Anything outside of that may seem like a threat to your tribe. Most naturally, when you have two powerful groups of people trying to protect their own, we get pitted against each other in a way that would cause tension because the system can’t fight us as an entity. So, in a sense, it’s like they let them fight each other.
Who are your favorite Black musicians – past or present – and why?
What Black music history are you making?
I would have to leave that to the people to tell me, but I do believe I have created music with the Fugees and on my own that’s very crucial to Black music history. Fugees was like no other group of its time. The Carnival album broke every genre barrier down.
As a Black man in American today, how can you continue to push the narrative?
I can continue by staying true to myself and the music I make that’s 100 percent for the 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’s often coming from artists who want to share a story about something they had to overcome. Music is healing and it connects people. When I came to America, I needed an outlet to learn English. I depended heavily on Hip Hop music for that.
Do you think Black artists, nationally and internationally, are getting the credit they deserve? Do you feel like you have?
Historically, the artists who are credited internationally did so because they connect with their fans. As an artist, you have to understand what your fans expect of you and you have deliver that and more. The Black artists that I see do this nationally and internationally do this in their sleep.
What’s your favorite genre of Black music?
My roots are in Jazz, but of course I appreciate rap and hip hop because when I came to America as a kid those were my outlets. Rap is how I taught myself to speak English.
What does it mean to score “The Chi”?
Scoring “The Chi” has been an incredible experience. Working with Lena Waithe and the entire team is an honor. This is a great opportunity to show what Black composers can do in Hollywood.
Will we ever get the Wyclef/will.i.am Verzuz?
I never say never.