Nel Ust Wyclef Jean (/ˈwaɪklɪf ˈʒɒn/; born on October 17, 1969), better known by his professional name Wyclef Jean, is a Haitian rapper, musician and actor. At the age of nine, Jean immigrated as a child to the United States with his family and settled there. He first achieved fame as a member of the New Jersey hip hop group the Fugees. Jean has won three Grammy Awards for his musical work.
On August 5, 2010, Jean filed for candidacy in the 2010 Haitian presidential election. The Electoral Commission ruled him as ineligible to stand for office, as he had not met the constitutional requirement to have been resident in Haiti for five years.
Jean's efforts at earthquake relief, highly publicized in 2010 throughout Haiti and the United States, were channeled through his charitable organization, Yéle Haiti. The charity, which conducted education and welfare activities in Haiti between 2005 and 2010, effectively closed in 2012. It was investigated for failure to file tax returns and mismanagement of funds; a high proportion of its money went to travel and administrative expense. The New York Times reported that much of the money raised by the organization in the Hope for Haiti Now telethon was retained by Jean for his own benefit.
In 2012 Jean published his memoir Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story. Along with Carlos Santana, Avicii and Alexandre Pires, Jean was chosen to perform the closing ceremony at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Their single, "Dar Um Jeito" ("We Will Find a Way"), the official World Cup anthem, was released on April 29, 2014.
Jean was born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. In 1982, he immigrated with his family as a nine-year-old child to the United States; after living in Brooklyn, New York, they settled in East Orange and Newark, New Jersey. He began to make music as a child and has cited reggae artist Bigga Haitian as one of his early influences, as well as neighborhood heroes MC Tiger Paw Raw and producer Lobster v. Crab. His mother recognized his musical talent and bought him a guitar when he was in his teens; he played music to earn respect.
Jean graduated from Vailsburg High School, Newark, New Jersey, briefly attended Eastern Nazarene College and finished one semester at Five Towns College in New York. Jean has been a resident of Saddle River, South Orange, and North Caldwell, New Jersey. In 2009, Jean enrolled in the Berklee College of Music.
Fugees era (1988–1997)
Jean and other musicians formed a group in the 1980s under the name Tranzlator Crew. After they signed with Ruffhouse Records and Columbia Records in 1993, they renamed their group as Fugees – an abbreviation of "refugees", and also a reference to Haitian immigrants. The group's debut album, Blunted on Reality, was released in 1994. It achieved limited commercial success, peaking at number 62 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album peaked at number 122 on the UK Albums Chart in 1997, and it was certified gold by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP). Blunted on Reality spawned three singles: "Boof Baf", "Nappy Heads" and "Vocab." "Nappy Heads" was the Fugees' first single to be ranked on the US Billboard Hot 100, charting at number 49.
In 1996, the Fugees released their second album, titled The Score. The album achieved significant commercial success in the United States, topping the US Billboard 200. It was later certified as six-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It performed well in several overseas nations, topping the Austrian, Canadian, French, German and Swiss albums charts, while also peaking at number two in Sweden and the United Kingdom. Four commercially successful singles were released from The Score; "Fu-Gee-La", the first single from the album, peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the RIAA and by the Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI). The other three singles – "Killing Me Softly", "Ready or Not" and "No Woman, No Cry" – did not appear on the Billboard Hot 100 as they were not released for commercial sale, making them ineligible to appear on the chart, although they all received sufficient airplay to appear on the Hot 100 Airplay and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts. "Killing Me Softly", a cover of the Roberta Flack song "Killing Me Softly with His Song", performed strongly in other territories, topping the singles charts in Australia, Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom, among several others.
"Ready or Not" peaked at number one in the UK and at number three in Sweden. "No Woman, No Cry" – a cover of the Bob Marley & The Wailers song of the same name – topped the singles chart in New Zealand. Fugees collaborated with singer Bounty Killer on the single "Hip-Hopera" and recorded the single "Rumble in the Jungle" for the soundtrack to the film When We Were Kings in 1997: although they have not released any studio albums since The Score, a compilation album, Greatest Hits, was released in 2003, and spawned the single "Take It Easy".
Start of his solo career (1997–2004)
Jean announced plans to begin a solo career with 1997's Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival Featuring the Refugee All-Stars (generally called The Carnival). The album's guests included Lauryn Hill and Pras along with Jean's siblings' group Melky Sedeck; the I Threes (back-up vocals for Bob Marley); The Neville Brothers and Celia Cruz. The album was a hit, as were two singles: "We Trying to Stay Alive" (adapted from the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive") and "Gone Till November" (recorded with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra).
Released in 2000, Jean's second solo album The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book was recorded with guests including Youssou N'Dour; Earth, Wind & Fire; Kenny Rogers; The Rock; and Mary J. Blige. With Blige he released "911" as a single. He was nominated for Best Hip-Hop Act at the 2000 MTV Europe Music Awards.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Jean participated in the benefit concert America: A Tribute to Heroes contributing a cover of the Bob Marley song "Redemption Song". His third album, Masquerade, was released in 2002. His fourth album, The Preacher's Son, was released in November 2003 as the follow-up to his first solo album, The Carnival. In 2004, he released his fifth album, Sak Pasé Presents: Welcome to Haïti (Creole 101) (released in the United States by Koch Records). Most of its songs are in his native language of Haitian Creole like "Fanm Kreyòl" with the French Caribbean Admiral T. He also figured on the album Mozaik Kreyòl of this one in the song "Secret Lover". Then he covered Creedence Clearwater Revival's song "Fortunate Son" for the soundtrack of the 2004 film remake of The Manchurian Candidate and wrote the song "Million Voices" for the film Hotel Rwanda.
Jean also produced and wrote songs for the soundtrack to Jonathan Demme's 2003 documentary The Agronomist, about the Haitian activist and radio personality Jean Dominique. With Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessis, Jean also composed the score of the documentary Ghosts of Cité Soleil, He helped produce the film and he appears briefly onscreen speaking by telephone in 2004 to a "chimere" gang-leader and aspiring rapper, Winston "2Pac" Jean.
"Hips Don't Lie" and The Carnival Vol. II (2004–2009)
During a period between 2004 and 2006 and fueled by a reunion performance in Dave Chappelle's "Block Party", it appeared that the Fugees were on track to record a new album, however Fugees member Pras claimed to Billboard, "To put it nicely, it's dead." He said the root of this animosity was the third member of the group, Lauryn Hill, and was quoted in Billboard as saying; "Me and Clef, we on the same page, but Lauryn Hill is in her zone, and I'm fed up with that shit. Here she is, blessed with a gift, with the opportunity to rock and give and she's running on some bulls**t? I'm a fan of Lauryn's but I can't respect that."
In 2006, Jean was featured in Shakira's smash hit Hips Don't Lie. The song went on to become the highest selling single of the 21st century, in addition to reaching number one in over 55 countries. Jean and Shakira went on to perform the song at the 2007 Grammys and the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. He joined Shakira on various dates of her Oral Fixation Tour in the United States. In 2007 he was featured in Eros Ramazzotti's song L'Aurora from the album e² and scored the Angelina Jolie documentary A Place in Time.
Jean released an album in September 2007 that he recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, with the help of T.I., who also collaborated with Jean on the songs "You Know What it is" and "My Swag" on T.I.'s 2007 album, T.I. vs. T.I.P. Recently, Wyclef released a new song called "Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)" featuring Lil Wayne, Niia and Akon, which references the song "C.R.E.A.M." by the Wu-Tang Clan. The album features a single, "Fast Car", whose video was made with the assistance of video game Burnout Paradise. During this period, he was featured in a mix version of the Cartel song "Wasted" that was released with their self-titled album.
In November 2008, an upbeat single 'Let Me Touch Your Button' featuring will.i.am (of The Black Eyed Peas) was released in the UK in conjunction with Wyclef's involvement with UK MOTOROKRSTAR (which sees Motorola UK on the search to discover British talent). Jean released a song with Serj Tankian called "Riot".
In 2009, he was featured on the song "Spanish Fly" with Ludacris and Bachata group Aventura included on Aventura's album The Last, released in June. On June 17, 2009, Wyclef announced via Twitter that his new album would be called wyclefjean and was to be released sometime in February 2010. The first single from wyclefjean was to be titled "Seventeen" and feature Lil Wayne. In August 2009, Wyclef unveiled his video "Haitian Slumdog Millionaire" featuring Haitian artist Imposs. Making a guest appearance in the video was New York City entrepreneur and philanthropist .
"Divine Sorrow" and Carnival III (2009–present)
In November 2009, a track titled "Suicide Love" featuring rapper Eve leaked online prior to the release of his EP. Wyclef Jean's EP named From the Hut, to the Projects, to the Mansion was released on November 10, 2009. It includes 17 tracks, featuring Cyndi Lauper, Timbaland, Eve, and Lil' Kim. In this album, Wyclef uses the alias Toussaint St. Jean, his alter ego, when he raps.
Wyclef Jean's self-entitled studio album was due to be released in 2011, but has yet to surface. "Hold On", the lead single from the project, features dancehall artist Mavado. In May 2014, a Wyclef video, "April Showers", was banned from YouTube after Cathy Scott, author of The Killing of Tupac Shakur, lodged a copyright infringement complaint with YouTube claiming an image in the video was similar to an autopsy photo released in her book. YouTube temporally banned the video.
TMZ, which broke the story, reported that the video director, Hezues R', and Scott had settled the matter and agreed that Hezues R' would include a screen credit to the book at the end of the video. He worked with Avicii on a single titled "Divine Sorrow" from his upcoming EP J'Ouvert.
In 2015, Wyclef collaborated again with Avicii on a song called "Can't Catch Me" on the DJ/producer's album Stories, which also featured Matisyahu. This marks the third collaboration with Avicii and Wyclef Jean, following "Dar Um Jeito (We Will Find A Way)" and "Divine Sorrow".
Jean has also appeared as a featured vocalist in The Knocks' single "Kiss The Sky", which was released in January 2016. This song was part of their debut album, entitled 55, released in March 2016.
Wyclef wrote an autobiography entitled Purpose: An Immigrant's Story with the help of journalist Anthony Bozza, published in September 2012.
On May 17, 2016, Wyclef released his first song in two years, which gave hints to a new album release. A month later on June 17, he released a new song called Hendrix, and later released a short film featuring Michael K. Williams. He then did many interviews teasing that his new J'ouvert Extended Play would drop in November. Although, this release was pushed back into February. To promote his EP, he did a concert at Terminal 5. On October 14, 2016 Wyclef released an election song called "If I Was President 2016" that would be featured on his J'ouvert EP. On November 1, 2016 he released a song that he had collaborated on with Young Thug. The song was called "I Swear," which is also featured on his EP. Wyclef had also collaborated on Young Thug's Jeffery Mixtape, and was featured on Thug's song "Kanye West." Young Thug also had a song named "Wyclef Jean" that was named after him because he was such a big influence.
In January 2017, Wyclef announced that his J'ouvert EP would be released on February 3, 2017. On February 2, 2017, Wyclef released his new single "Ne Me Quitte Pas", which was featured on his J'ouvert Deluxe EP. The EP was released and charted at 117 on the Billboard 200, and 50 on the Canadian Hot Albums. Four more singles were released from the album, "Life Matters", "The Ring," "Holding onto the Edge" and "Little Things". On June 9, Wyclef announced on his Instagram that Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee would become available to pre-order on June 22, 2017. You can now pre-order his 12 track album on iTunes.
Yéle Haiti Scandal
In 2001, Jean established "Yéle Haiti" a charitable organization known legally as the Wyclef Jean Foundation and incorporated in Illinois. Following 2004's Hurricane Jeanne, it provided scholarships to 3,600 children in Gonaïves, Haiti. It continued to provide scholarships, school funding, meals and other charitable benefits to citizens of Haiti in the following years.
After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the foundation became prominent in raising funds for disaster relief. According to Jean, Yéle raised over $1 million in 24 hours over Twitter. Jean took part in an MTV donation drive and other publicized fundraising, such as the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, which he organized with actor and producer George Clooney. The Yéle charity donated funds to orphanages, street cleaning crews, hospitals and medical clinics and organized food service to provide hot meals to refugees and victims of the catastrophe.
By February 2010, questions were reported about the history and management of the Yéle charity. The New York Times reported that it had failed to file tax returns for several years. The former executive director, Sanjay Rawal, questioned the charity's ability to handle large projects and criticized its lack of financial controls.
By August 2012, chief executive Derek Q. Johnson was the last remaining officer of the charity. He resigned and announced that Yele was closed, saying in a statement, "As the foundation’s sole remaining employee, my decision implies the closure of the organization as a whole." The New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, had investigated the charity and was trying to reach a settlement over allegations of mismanagement. He said that the charity had made improper payments to Jean, members of his family and others connected to Jean. In 2010, the year of the earthquake in Haiti, Yéle spent more than $9 million - with half of it going to travel expenses by Jean and his entourage, consultants' fees and real estate fees. The charity has been the subject of lawsuits in Haiti for unpaid debts.
Jean has supported politicians in Haiti. In 2011 he told Women's Wear Daily that he was "a big fan of Sarah Palin", former vice-presidential candidate of the Republican Party. It was reported erroneously that Jean would be attending the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.
2010 Haitian presidential campaign
On August 5, 2010, Wyclef confirmed rumors that he was running for president of Haiti during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. The journalist questioned the rapper's citizenship qualifications, asking about his passport. Exclaim! magazine reported at the time that Jean would retire as chairman of Yéle Haiti. On August 5, Jean formally filed papers as a candidate for the 2010 Haitian presidential election. Wyclef intended to run as a candidate for the Viv Ansanm (Live Together) political party.
On August 20, 2010, his bid for candidacy was rejected by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council. He was turned down because he did not meet the constitutional residency requirement of having lived in Haiti for five years before the November 28 election. Jean said, "I respectfully accept the committee's final decision, and I urge my supporters to do the same.
Appearances in television and film
- In 2002, Jean played the part of Richie Effs in the Jamaican crime film Shottas, about two young men who participate in organized crime in Kingston, Jamaica, and Miami, Florida.
- On a 2004 episode of Chappelle's Show, he appeared as the musical guest and played a remix of his song "President" from the 2004 album Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101.
- He starred in Virgin Mobile commercials as himself.
- In 2005, he appeared in the film One Last Thing.... His character is a cab driver named Emmett Ducasse. It is implied he is an angel due to being in the main character's "Heaven". Wyclef also has an original track entitled "Heaven's in New York" that is the closing credits first song.
- Also in 2005, Wyclef appeared in four episodes of the hit NBC prime-time television drama Third Watch as Marcel Hollis, a gang leader responsible for blowing up the police precinct house in the final episode of the series.
- In December 2007, starred in the four-part MTV exclusive online short-film Americlef.
- May 20, 2008: At the Gansevoort Hotel, Wyclef Jean in partnership with the WFP and PADF launched "Together for Haiti" to address the hunger crisis in Haiti members of the American and international television and print media were invited to cover the news.
- May 14, 2009: Jean appeared in an episode of 30 Rock entitled Kidney Now!, the final episode of Season 3.
- October 17, 2011: The Apprentice season 12, Episode 1: "Hero Worship"
- He appeared on the PBS show The Electric Company
- From 2012 to 2013, he appeared as Dominic "Domino" King, the head of a music label on the ABC drama series Nashville.
- In 2016, Wyclef appeared in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in which played the CEO of a record company
In 2012 Jean published his memoir Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story.
- 1997: The Carnival
- 2000: The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book
- 2002: Masquerade
- 2003: Greatest Hits
- 2003: The Preacher's Son
- 2004: Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101
- 2006: Ghosts of Cité Soleil (soundtrack)
- 2007: Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant
- 2009: From the Hut, To the Projects, To the Mansion
- 2010: If I Were President: My Haitian Experience
- 2017: J'ouvert
- 2017: Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee
- 2001: Carmen: A Hip Hopera
- 2002: Shottas
- 2005: Dirty
- 2005: Third Watch
- 2005: One Last Thing...
- 2006: Full Clip: narrator
- 2007: Redline
- 2012: Black November
- 2012–2013: Nashville (TV series)
Awards and nominations
Source, Grammy Award wins:
|1997||The Score||Album of the Year||Nominated|
|Best Rap Album||Won|
|Killing Me Softly||Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||Won|
|1998||Guantanamera (featuring Celia Cruz and Jeni Fujita)||Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group||Nominated|
|The Carnival||Best Rap Album||Nominated|
|1999||Gone Till November||Best Rap Solo Performance||Nominated|
|2000||Supernatural (as a producer)||Album of the Year||Won|
|2001||911 (with Mary J. Blige)||Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||Nominated|
|2006||Million Voices (shared with Jerry Duplessis and Andrea Guerra)||Best Song Written for Visual Media||Nominated|
|2007||Hips Don't Lie (with Shakira)||Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals||Nominated|
MTV Video Music Awards
|1998||"Gone Till November"||Best R&B Video||Won|
|Best Direction in a Video||Nominated|
|"We Trying to Stay Alive"||Best Choreography in a Video||Nominated|
In 2011, President Michel Martelly of Haiti awarded Jean with the National Order of Honour and Merit to the rank of Grand Officer "as a sign of high consideration national for his dedication to the promotion of Haiti around the world."
In 2017, Jean was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.