Wyclef Jean

  • Reggae rapper, guitarist and songwriter born Nel Ust Wyclef Jean in 1969 in Croix-des-Bouquets Haiti.
  • At nine years old, Jean’s family emigrated to New York City and ultimately settled in New Jersey. His mother saw that he had musical talent, so she bought him a guitar. Influenced by reggae and rap music, he formed a musical group called Tranzlator Crew in his late teens that included Lauryn Hill. Hill and Jean started a romantic relationship, and in 1993, after signing a recording contract, the band was renamed Fugees. Fugees released studio albums in 1994 and 1996. 1996’s The Score became one of the most successful rap albums of all time, certified 7x platinum and winning two Grammy awards (for more on Fugees, see my post from November 22, 2020).
  • Fugees split up in 1997 as Hill and Jean both expressed interest in starting solo careers. By then, Hill and Jean’s relationship had ended, as Hill was dishonest with Jean about the birth of her son from another man. In mid-1997, Jean released his first solo album, titled Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival Featuring the Refugee All-Stars. The album was a success, certified 2x platinum and peaking at #4 on the R&B Albums chart. It featured numerous guest appearances from various artists, including Hill on five of the tracks. The biggest hit from the album was Gone Till November – it peaked at #7 on the Hot 100 chart and at #2 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
  • The 2000s were a prolific time for Jean. He released six studio albums during the decade, with four of them charting in the top 10 of the R&B Album chart, and 2000’s The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book getting a platinum certification. Hits from these albums included Cheated (To All the Girls), Two Wrongs, 911 and Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill). All of the albums featured Jean’s unique fusion of hip-hop and reggae music. His 2004 album Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101 included songs performed in several languages, including French, Creole and Latin.
  • Jean was a featured artist on two hits from other artists that were huge hits. In 1999, he co-wrote and co-produced Santana’s Maria Maria. The song reached #1 in seven countries including the U.S., and it won a Grammy award for Best Pop Performance by a Group with Vocals. It was #1 on the Hot 100 for ten weeks, and Billboard reported in 2009 that it was the 14th most successful song of the 00s decade. In 2006, Jean co-wrote and contributed vocals to Shakira’s mega-hit Hips Don’t Lie. It reached #1 in 18 countries, including the U.S. When it was released, it became the most played song in a single week in American radio history.
  • From 2010 to 2019, Jean released two EPs and a studio album. 2010’s EP If I Were President: My Haitian Experience coincided with his intention to run for president of Haiti in 2010. He filed papers as a candidate, but ultimately Haiti’s Electoral Council rejected him because he did not meet the constitutional requirement of living in Haiti for five years prior to the election. Also during the 10s, Jean appeared in several television and film productions. In 2012, he published his memoir, titled Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story, which detailed the poverty of his childhood in Haiti and his American success story.
  • In 2011, Jean was awarded the National Order of Honour and Merit with the rank of Grand Officer. This is the highest honor of merit awarded by the President of Haiti. Here’s his video for Gone Till September, a favorite of mine – no hardcore rap/hip-hop here. Catch the Bob Dylan cameo at 2:30 in the video.

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