@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
11 May 2008
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The son of a minister, Nelust Wyclef Jean was born in Croix-des-Bouquets,
Haiti, on October 17, 1972. When he was nine, his family moved to
the Marlborough projects in Brooklyn, NY; by his teenage years,
Jean had moved to New Jersey, taken up the guitar, and begun studying
jazz through his high school's music department. In 1987, he also
joined a rap group with his cousin Prakazrel Michel (aka Pras) and
Michel's high school classmate Lauryn Hill. Initially calling themselves
the Tranzlator Crew, they would soon evolve into the Fugees.
The trio signed with Ruffhouse Records in 1993 and released their
debut album “Blunted on Reality” in 1984. It would be
their follow up “The Score”, which would propel the
group (and individuals) to worldwide fame. “The Score”
is ranked as one of the biggest-selling rap albums of all time.
Wyclef Jean was the first member of the Fugees to embark on a solo
career. He proved even more ambitious and eclectic on his own. Wyclef
also became hip-hop's unofficial multicultural conscience; a seemingly
omnipresent activist, he assembled or participated in numerous high-profile
charity benefit shows for a variety of causes, including aid for
his native Haiti. The utopian one-world sensibility that fuelled
Wyclef's political consciousness also informed his recordings, which
fused hip-hop with many different styles of music. In addition to
his niche as hip-hop's foremost global citizen, Jean was also a
noted producer and remixer who has worked with varied artists such
as Whitney Houston, Santana, Michael Jackson, Tevin Campbell, Eric
Benet, Bounty Killer, Cypress Hill, Shakira, Black Eyed Peas, Sinéad
O’connor, Mick Jagger and Destiny's Child, among many others.
Wyclef Jean continues to collaborate, produce, remix and release
immensely successful solo albums. Fans as well as music journalists
always raise questions regarding the possibility of a Fugees reunion.
Jean however always remains tight-lipped, or may just hint at a
reunion when pushed for an answer.
The Wyclef press conference with Carole Clemesha
Wyclef Jean sauntered into the makeshift DIY style gazebo, beaming,
with his newly styled sexy baldhead. He sat facing an eager ‘select’
section of Jazz Festival journalists and to a barrage of music related
questions from the BET crew - Once order had been established Wyclef
proceeded to calmly direct the early stages of the interview.
This multitalented musician, producer and fund-raiser was eager
to promote his charitable causes for his birthplace. From the moment
questions were asked, he managed to redirect (politician style)
to focus on his foundation for humanitarian aid for his native Haiti.
Journalists continued to fire music related questions. This time
Jean made a point of saying that he appreciated the work that photographers
and journalists did as only they could get ‘the message’
across to what is going on in the World.
Eventually I was able to redirect questions towards a more ‘musical
note’ to ask what he thought of being compared to Curtis Mayfield
(who had set up a production studio and then let his new artists
do their thing). Initially he was more interested in my accent,
and when I introduced myself as ‘Carole from London’,
he screeched with delight “Great place, London,
Once he got over that, he was happy to wax lyrical about his mentor,
Curtis, and was honoured by the comparison.
Jean continued to chat in an extremely relaxed manner until he
was nudged by a festival official to prepare to go on stage, it
seemed as though he would have been happy to continue to talk, mingle
(flirt). He was in his element when he spoke patois (Creole) to
one Caribbean journalist. Jean confessed to wanting to make a ‘Caribbean
Carnival’ record as he enjoys this part of the culture so
much, and wants others to experience the music.
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.