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: Why did you write the song “If I Was President”?
Wyclef Jean: The song “If I Was President” -- I get elected on Friday assassinated on Saturday, buried on Sunday, then they go back to work on Monday as if nothing happened. It was this song that was inspired by a conspiracy theory -- you know, sitting back, looking at what’s going on in the war, the billions of dollars that’s being spent. And the fact of whenever someone is coming in to actually present truth, they shoot them down. So then I put myself in the position of, you know, if I was President they probably take me out the way they took Martin Luther out or the way they took Kennedy out. But at the same time, we should strive to be the President, meaning that the best that we can be. Tell the children the truth.
Question: What do you think of will.i.am’s video?
Wyclef Jean: I mean, will.i.am’s a great producer, you know, I call him the Little Clef. And I have respect for him as a producer, you know, and when he did the “Yes We Can,” my respect for him, though, went to level 300 because this is what it’s about. When you have kids like that that see Obama and then they just get inspired. So, yes, there is room for music. And people say, “Is there room for music and politics”? I said, “Oh, you mean [politricks]?” So there’s room for music and social issues; but whenever we decide to talk about social issues, you call them politics. We call them politricks. We say, “Leave the politics for the politicians and let’s deal with these social issues.”
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.