WYCLEF JEAN: Perfect Gentleman
In conjunction with his involvement with UK MOTOROKRSTAR (which sees Motorola UK on the search to discover British talent), former Fugee rapper/singer/producer Wyclef Jean this month releases his cheeky, upbeat new single, ‘Let Me Touch Your Button,’ featuring will.i.am.
With the competition finding Wyclef sitting on the team of panellists, the winner of MOTOROKRSTAR’s ten finalists will not only get a major-record-label contract, but also the opportunity to record a brand new song with Wyclef himself, whose past productions have provided some of the last decade’s biggest-selling global hits for the likes of Shakira, Santana and Whitney Houston. A highly diverse list of superstar names which in itself proves how Haitian-born, New Jersey-raised musical maverick Wyclef Jean has indeed - for over twelve years - remained one of hip hop`s most unpredictably eclectic and all-embracing figureheads. In turn resulting in widely-differing opinions from rap purists/academics as to his status in today’s hip hop nation as either an eccentric genius or eclectic charlatan(!).
Either way, however, there’s never any shortage of musical icons from all paths of life wanting to work with him. With the recent release of the one-time Fugee`s fifth solo album - ‘The Carnival 2 - Memoirs Of An Immigrant’ - finding said rapper/producer/multi-instrumentalist not only hooking up with Southern rappers T.I., Lil` Wayne and Chamillionaire, but also crossing genres by bringing on board talent ranging from folk icon Paul Simon and hip-swivelling Latino goddess Shakira; to hip hop-soul queen Mary J. Blige, Senegal-born R&B chart-topper Akon, and even The Nation Of Islam’s Minister Louis Farrakhan on violin!
The `Clef himself takes time out from rehearsals at a West London studio to chat with ‘B&S”s Pete Lewis about such pressing subjects as his latest album project and the recent abortive Fugees reunion.
What was the thinking behind your latest album ‘The Carnival 2 - Memoirs Of An Immigrant’?
“Titling it ‘The Carnival 2’ was down to ‘The Carnival’ (his debut solo LP) back in `97 being my first multi-cultural CD. It had rhythms from all over the world, and in that way this new record is the sequel. You know, there`s a revolution of culture going on around the world today where The United Nations is everywhere! You go into a room, and everybody`s from a different country. It`s like we`re ALL immigrants! Some of these people may be listening to bhangra, some to hip hop, some to rock... And, when you put that fusion together, it unites people through music.”
How do you feel about criticism from the hardcore hip hop headz for your eclecticism?
“I say the future of the world is eclecticism, and it`s either you join us or we swallow you! It`s like if you wanna just listen to one style of rap that`s your business. But I guarantee you your kid will be listening to me! Because it`s either you go with the internet, or you sit there with your VCR! You know, you have to find ways to keep reinventing the music! I remember back in the Fugees days they`d criticise me for playing the guitar and rapping. Yet today all those groups that were saying that about me don`t exist!”
So what`s your take on the recent aborted Fugees reunion?
“I feel the first issue that needs to be addressed is that (former Fugees frontwoman) Lauryn (Hill) needs help. I think she needs a psychiatrist, just to sit with and talk. Because, with the state that she`s in, no-one should be letting her do shows. I think it`s more a case of getting her to hospital and talking about what the problem is. Like, in my personal opinion, those (late 2005) Fugees reunion shows shouldn`t have been done, because we wasn’t ready. I really felt we shoulda first all gone into a room with Lauryn and a psychiatrist. So that, when we left the room, everybody was hugging. But, you know, I do believe Lauryn can get help. And, once she does work things out, hopefully a proper and enduring Fugees reunion will happen.”
Do you feel the major labels` attitude to hip hop has changed in the last 18 months?
“I just don`t feel they`re spending the sorta money on rap that they were. Like, as an artist today, unless you got your own money you`re not getting pushed! I mean, studios are being shut down everywhere; there`s hardly any budgets for videos... Basically, the labels today are definitely putting less and less money into rap and more into other things.”
The single ‘Let Me Touch Your Button Feat. will.i.am’ and the album ‘The Carnival 2 - Memoirs Of An Immigrant’ are both out now through RCA Label Group
Words PETE LEWIS