After a long hiatus that has seen former Fugees member Wyclef Jean away for 7 years, he now returns with his long awaited offering J’ouvert. The 13-track EP includes a collaboration with Young Thug and fuses the reggae and hip-hop style that Wyclef is synonymous with introducing to the masses. Trapped Magazine caught up with Wyclef to discuss the influence of Public Service, intergenerational collabs and creating timeless masterpieces.
Tell us about the new EP J’ouvert and how it will coincide with Carnival Volume III?
J’ouvert is a continuation of where I left off 7 years ago. It’s grass, it’s ocean and it’s vibes. It’s what’s called a prelude; an appetiser for what will be the full-length album The Carnival III, which can be expected in June.
You’ve been away for 7 years, running for president back home in Haiti and working within the community. Why did you feel the need to stop music and go into public service?
For me it’s deeper than just the music, anyone can do music but I wanted to do a movement like Bob Marley and The Fugees. With a movement you can’t just talk about it, you’ve got to be about it. So like John Lennon, it was time. I had to stop the music and give my people a voice. Public service is the hardest thing to do though, because you literally go from being popular to people throwing stones at you. To whom much is given much is required, it was important I took the time out to help my people.
What other elements motivated your approach to this new project?
Fela Kuti inspires me. We have similar stories so when I went back home and saw how the people were being treated I wanted to do more. The vibe of this project is like the rise of the phoenix, and that’s where my inspiration came from.
Throughout your career you’ve been instrumental in developing great artists. Your EP also features some fresh new talent. How important is intergenerational collaboration?
Discovery has always been what I love best. I feel the best talent is discovered from nothing. The record ‘Little Things’ was meant to be for Rihanna, and myself but the artist that did the demo was so dope I decided I’m going to keep her on it. I did the same with The Score. We introduced you to John Forte and also before anyone knew Akon I put him on the remix to Fu-Gee-La because I thought he was ill. My first brain is as a producer, composer and director so my true passion is raw talent. Being able to see potential in an artist is how I like to be a part of a musician’s life.
One of the main features on J’ouvert is ‘I Swear’ with Young Thug. How did that collaboration come about?
When you put out music and it comes from a movement, the kids are going to find it. Young Thug discovered The Carnival, The Score, Masquerade and my movement in Haiti at a young age and was inspired. So when he was working on his mixtape he reached out to me with his track named Wyclef Jean. He shared with me some of the stuff he was working on. When you put together my 90’s era and Young Thug’s 2017 era in the right way, you’re only going to get fusion. That’s what I’ve been into my whole career, connecting generations, creating good music from a movement. That never goes away.
The Score recently celebrated its 21st anniversary and is a prime example of timeless music. What do you think has been the biggest change in the music industry during your time?
The biggest change is how the people consume music. ‘Hendrix’ has had 10 million streams which would have been 10 million singles. Our first week stream downloads at 8 million would translate to 1.5 million records if this was in my era. So this generation has way more platforms to discover music. When I was coming up the A&R chose what they were going to sign, which I hated but now the power is in the hands of the kids.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement to date?
I would say public service. I always go back to that. It’s always easy to do things when it’s convenient but the idea of sacrificing yourself for others is a different thing. So I still would say personally, it’s the fact that I decided I would give it all up to be president of my country. Now to some that just sounds crazy but it is what it is, for me it’s still one of my biggest achievements.
You’ve always used your platform to speak out on social issues, where many other artists hesitate for fear of backlash. Where does that courage and fearlessness come from?
When you come from where I come from, you’re eating dirt from the floor and riding donkeys to school. Where I come from you’re putting guns back together and pulling them apart at 11 years old. We haven’t got anything to lose. The only person I fear is my mother when she gave me those West Indian beatings. We were raised to know that we came from dirt and one day we will return to the same dirt. We must have respect for each other and protect those who don’t have a voice.
Which artists do you feel share the same ethos and similar spirit, not just in music but in action and creating a movement?
I like people who don’t care about what people are saying about them. They’re just going to do them. This is why I like Young Thug, this why I like Kendrick Lamar, this is why I like Lil’ Wayne. I like people who don’t have to be politically correct all of the time, but they are so strong that they can lead a generation.
You’re signed to female founded company, was that a conscious decision to be on such a niche label?
Well, really they came and got me. The CEO was like we need a Haitian Smokey Robinson; we need you to do what you did with Lauryn, Beyonce and Shakira with the talent we’ve got.
When are you going to be touring in London?
We are scheduling something where we can come to London in the summer. I really want to play at the venue where Hendrix and Eric Clapton had their face off if that’s still around. So, we are definitely coming to London and it’s going to be a very back to the essence vibe. It’s gonna be dope!
‘J’ouvert’ is available now from iTunes. Check out two visuals from the project below.
By Keira Allen-Anderson –@