Lead Fugees rapper and sometime guitarist Wyclef Jean was the first member of his group to embark on a solo career, and he proved even more ambitious and eclectic on his own. As the Fugees hung in limbo, 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 fueled Wyclef's political consciousness also informed his recordings, which fused hip-hop with as many different styles of music as he could get his hands on (though, given his Caribbean roots, reggae was a particular favorite). In addition to his niche as hip-hop's foremost global citizen, Clef was also a noted producer and remixer who worked with an impressive array of pop, R&B, and hip-hop talent, including Whitney Houston, Santana, and Destiny's Child, among many others.
Question: What has been your experience of race in America?
Wyclef Jean: I mean, really, man, the issue of race, no matter how much we wanna, like, ignore it, you know what I’m saying, we have to talk about it ‘cause that’s how we’re gonna move forward. I feel that this new generation are not prejudiced at all, the majority of the generation, you know what I’m saying? But then you still got like, you know, 10% that’s trying to hold on to the past, you know what I’m saying? Like you’re black, you know what I’m saying, you’re Asian, you’re, you know -- you’re a White, you’re a -- you know what I mean?
You seen a lot of the hate crimes that has been happening, you know what I’m saying, and I feel that right now where we’re at with the world, we have to realize that we really want people. And what I mean by that is not in a cliché way, but if you check your blood, you check my blood; it’s really the same blood at the end of the day, theoretically speaking. So, you know, what I faced was always like, you know, as a Haitian, there’s always a stereotype and a stigma which goes with us, you know what I’m saying? Like, okay, you’re a Haitian, you’re a boat person, you stink, you brought AIDS. These are the kind of stigmas when I look at you and I’m like, you don’t have a clue, you’re ignorant, you don’t know what’s going on, you understand what I’m saying to you? And these are the stigmas that I fight for as a Haitian every day to basically say, “You all need to get past that BS and let’s deal with some of the realities and facts of the world.”