"I wanna show that with this whole thug phenomenon, there's something deeper than that. I wanna talk to the hoodlums because those same kids come to my shows and hear what I have to say, as well." Wyclef Jean.
Rapper, reggae artist and producer Wyclef Jean first gained international recognition as the lead of the phenomenal hip-hop trio The Fugees, with whom he spawned a series of high-profile hit singles in the mid 1990s, including the outstanding track "Killing Me Softly (With His Song)." The Haiti-born then launched his solo career and went to release platinum solo albums: The Carnival (1997), The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book (2000), Masquerade (2002), The Preacher's Son (2003) and Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101 (2004).
He was also a noted producer and remixer who has worked with such stars as Whitney Houston, Santana, and Destiny's Child, among many others. In 2005, he earned a Golden Globe nomination for his track entitled "Million Voices" featured on the soundtrack to the 2004 biographical film Hotel Rwanda. Next, Jean is scheduled to produce a track on Whitney Houston’s upcoming comeback album. He will also collaborate with her on his upcoming album, Second Wind.
Childhood and Family:
"I'm all about the projects. I was raised with this training from the church and the streets and the parks, and it's what developed me as a person and as an artist." Wyclef Jean.
In Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, Nelust Wyclef Jean was born on October 17, 1972. The son of a minister, Jean, who has Caribbean roots, lived in Haiti until he was 9 years old, when his family moved to the Marlborough Projects in Brooklyn, New York. And by his teenage years, Jean had moved to New Jersey, picked up the guitar, and begun studying jazz through his high school's music department.
In 1994, Jean married Marie Claudinette Jean, and in March 2005, they adopted a girl. Daughter Angelina Claudinelle was born in Wyclef's homeland, Haiti.
Getting his first guitar from his mother at his teen years, Wyclef Jean then studied jazz in high school and later formed a group called the Tranzlator Crew with his cousin Prakazrel Michel (a.k.a. Pras) and Michel's high school classmate, Lauryn Hill, in 1987. When they signed with Ruffhouse Records in 1993, they changed their group’s name into The Fugees, taken from the slang for refugees.
In 1994, the trio released their first LP, Blunted on Reality, which received little attention. After the relative failure of their first album, their sophomore album, The Score, became one of the biggest hits of 1996. The album delivered the group’s biggest pop hits with reinterpretations of "No Woman No Cry" (Bob Marley & the Wailers) and "Killing Me Softly (With His Song)" (Roberta Flack). Other hit singles include "Ready Or Not" and "Fu-Gee-La". The album was certified 6X Platinum in October 1997 and was ranked number 477 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time in 2003.
Soon as The Fugees stopped touring and promoting The Score, Jean tried out on a solo career. He released his first solo album, Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival Featuring Refugee All Stars (The Carnival), in June 1997. With a guest list ranging from salsa legend Celia Cruz to New Orleans crooners The Neville Brothers, it became one of hip-hop's most unusual and unique records. The Carnival spawned standout tracks include "Gone Till November" (received a Grammy Nomination), "Mona Lisa" and hit single "We Trying to Stay Alive."
With this triple-platinum album Jean has established himself as arguably one of the most musically-minded producers in hip-hop. And for the next few years, he worked as a producer, songwriter and re-mixer for a wide range of artists, including Destiny's Child, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Mya, Santana, Kimberly Scott, Sinad O'Connor, Mick Jagger, and Canibus.
On July 25, 2000, Jean released his second solo album, The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book. Youssou D'Nour, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and Kenny Rogers were some of guests in the album. The songs include the Grammy-nominated duet with Mary J. Blige, "911," and a cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here."
Two years later, Jean’s next solo effort, Masquerade, hit the music stores. It features Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," and Frankie Valli's "What a Night," as well as "Daddy," a tribute to Jean's father, who died in 2001. The album sold well although critics frequently panned it. Meanwhile, Jean founded his own record label in 2000, Yclef.
The Preacher's Son, Jean’s fourth solo album he considered a continuation of his first album, Carnival, was released on October 7, 2003. That same date, he released his greatest hits collaboration, which contains hits from his four albums The Carnival, The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book, Masquerade and The Preacher's Son. "No Woman, No Cry", a Fugee song, is also featured on the collaboration. In the next year, he released his fifth album, entitled Sak Pasé Presents: Welcome to Haïti (Creole 101) (released in the United States by Koch Records).
In 2004, Jean covered Creedence Clearwater Revival's song "Fortunate Son" for the soundtrack of director Jonathan Demme's film adaptation of the novel by Richard Condon, The Manchurian Candidate, starring Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber. He also produced and wrote original songs for the original soundtrack to Jonathan Demme's 2003 documentary, The Agronomist, which follows the life of Haiti radio broadcaster and human rights activist Jean Dominique.
2005 saw Jean earned a Golden Globe nomination for his track entitled "Million Voices" featured on the soundtrack to the film Hotel Rwanda, a 2004 biographical and historical drama film about the Rwandan Genocide, directed by Northern Irish filmmaker Terry George. As for his next projects, Jean is scheduled to produce a track on Whitney Houston’s upcoming comeback album. He will also collaborate with her on his upcoming album, Second Wind.
As for The Fugees, the trio reunited and performed on September 18, 2004 at the concert featured in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City, with a star-studded cast of rap stars, including Kanye West, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Talib Kweli, Common, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Bilal, dead prez, Cody ChestnuTT, John Legend, and the Central State University Marching Band. They also appeared at BET's 2005 Music Awards on June 28, 2005. Additionally, The Fugees embarked on a European tour from November 30, 2005 through December 20, 2005, their first tour together since 1997.
As a philanthropist, Jean has participated and organized handful benefit concerts for a variety of causes, including aid to his native Haiti. He founded the Wyclef Jean Foundation to help children both in Haiti and the United States, and has a special concern for those growing up in crime-ridden housing projects.
"I'm just one of those people who cares. And will always care because there's too much going on not to." Wyclef Jean.