[Blackstudies-l] Wyclef Jean on ‘Carnival III,’ Sampling Sounds of Jupiter & Cultural Appropriation

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Fri Sep 22 07:29:50 EDT 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " A report by Lindsey India for Billboard. "Every 10
years, I’ve got a new scheme. So I’m very excited about these next 10
years." It’s been 20 years since Wyclef Jeangraced the world with his
versatile debut solo album, Carnival, following his impactfu"
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<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Wyclef Jean on
‘Carnival III,’ Sampling Sounds of Jupiter & Cultural Appropriation
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Wyclef-Jean-press-photo-by-Karl-Ferguson-2017-billboard-1548.jpg]

A report by Lindsey India for *Billboard*.

"Every 10 years, I’ve got a new scheme. So I’m very excited about these
next 10 years."

It’s been 20 years since Wyclef Jean
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/431541/wyclef-jean/chart>graced the world
with his versatile debut solo album, *Carnival*, following his impactful
run with The Fugees <http://www.billboard.com/artist/302537/fugees/chart>.
Fast forward through two decades of breaking hit records, establishing
stars and becoming the self-proclaimed hip-hop guitarist, and the
Haitian-born musician is ready to close out his album series as an
independent artist working with Sofar Sounds.

Marking as the last album in his *Carnival* trilogy and his first LP since
2009, with *Carnival III *Jean is ready to unveil his teachings from his
soul search over the last few years with having previously taken a musical
hiatus in hopes of becoming the president of Haiti. While that dream was
unfortunately deterred in 2010, Wyclef has gotten back in touch with his
purpose, recruiting the next generation to help with his new musical

While debates of cultural appropriation have been brought to the surface
over pop culture taking on the trend of Afrobeats and island-inspired
sounds, the Brooklyn native -- who has made a career from infusing his
Caribbean roots into his own hip-hop music -- is in full support of the

Jean is even experimenting with some literally out-of-this-world audio,
having sampled sounds from the planet Jupiter onto his recent record,
“Borrowed Time.” After building a new taste bud for music, Wyclef seems
hopeful for the future of music and even believes that his former Fugees
member, Lauryn Hill
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/306682/lauryn-hill/chart> -- who has not
released a full project since *Miseducation* in 1998 -- would fit in
beautifully in today’s climate.

*Billboard* chatted with Wyclef Jean at Sofar’s pop-up show in Brooklyn,
N.Y., where he discussed his new *Carnival III* album, sampling sounds from
Jupiter and what a new Lauryn Hill album might sound like. Check out the
full conversation below.

*Talk to me about your music hiatus and what sparked you to come back?*

For me, I originally took the musical hiatus because I wanted to become
president of Haiti. I really felt like we had a shot. My country has been
suffering for a very long time and in my country I’m a leader. I’m a leader
of the youth. Over like 70 percent of the population is under 21, so I felt
like we were going to have a chance. I told my boys that I can always do
music. That’s like drinking water for me. I’m not even from the projects.
I’m from a hut. I used to take a donkey to school.

I didn’t get to America until I was 10. Music is a gift that the gods give
us, but if our people need our help, I really got to take time off and try
and help. We all need that at some point. Soul searching is important
because when you get to the level, you got to understand where I’m at. I
came from Haiti at 10 years old. At 24 years old, I had more money than I
could spend. I’m talking 30 to 40 million dollars.

At the end of the day, the Fugees is short for refugees, so we were looking
at people like Bono from U2
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/277577/u2/chart> and Bob Marley
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/293509/bob-marley/chart>. We were thinking
that we weren’t even going to do music, we were going to do movements. For
me, that’s my DNA and what I’m built on. I would take time off for that.
When I left to try and become president, that was right after “Hips Don’t
Lie” with Shakira
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/278867/shakira/chart>.... Sometimes
the hardest thing for you to do is walk away from being a rock star. If you
can do that shit, you come back so much more stronger because you find a
purpose greater than people screaming every night.

*How did you end up collaborating with Sofar in your new music comeback.*

I’m part of this indie label called Heads Music. This label consists of all
females. There’s an innovation drive that feels like the '90s with a love
for culture and a preservation of music. Them understanding the Wyclef
brand and that I’m raw. I always hate when an artist is trying to make a
comeback musically and then I see you at the Super Bowl. Then it’s like,
"Yo, you just killed your whole career before you even started it again."
You have kids like Young Thug
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/5883339/young-thug/chart> that’s like,
“This song is called ‘’Wyclef Jean,’ so Clef, come in the studio. You
inspire me.”

That’s why I pay homage to independent artists. The Fugees got a deal
afterwards, but like 17 labels passed on us. We weren't even on Columbia
yet. We were on Ruffhouse. Ruffhouse was an independent label trying to do
what we did. At the end of the day, I was like, we’re doing these pop ups,
but where is the next Lauryn? Where’s the next Beyonce
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/281569/beyonce/chart>? As a producer this
is what I live for. So with Heads Music, we do believe that we’re on the
verge of discovery. That’s my passion.

Like Lauryn at 15. Beyonce
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/281569/beyonce/chart> at 16. Erykah Badu
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/301879/erykah-badu/chart>, Mya
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/311986/mya/chart>, I have a thing. Working
with Sofar was incredible because it’s going to bring a different kind of
buzz to the independent artist, but it will bring a different kind of buzz
to me. When Kanye sees this, maybe he’ll be like, “You know, we’re gonna go
rock.” The pulse of what we do comes from the independent spirit. I felt
like to come out here to celebrate that at Sofar’s pop-ups was one of the
best things. This is what we call grass roots. This is the first audience I
would like to hear *Carnival III*. My music is based from creativity and
artistic form and not off of hype. That’s where we’re at.

*Where does Carnival III rank in the album trilogy?*

It’s the final one. What makes it special is that the kids that were 9-12
years old that were listening to *Carnival* as one of their albums are now
they’re producing for Thugger
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/5883339/young-thug/chart> or Fetty Wap
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/6407961/fetty-wap/chart>. Those are the
kids that are in the studios. This is when the uncle meets the nephews.
It’s a celebration of the new generation. I didn’t just say we should
embrace them.  I brought them in the studio. I gave them some of my secrets
and they gave me some of theirs. We mixed hardware and software and put it
together. So this ranks very special because I’m paying homage to those
kids that was like 9 or 12 and they’re telling me they’re ready to produce
for me. That’s the most exciting part of the *Carnival III*.

Rihanna <http://www.billboard.com/artist/365068/rihanna/chart>, Drake
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/301284/drake/chart>… I mean you have to
understand that *Carnival* is the blueprint. Anything that sounds
Afrobeats… it’s a great chapter for me right now because I was doing this
and watching it. Dudes were like, "Man, ain’t nobody going to be playing
this coconut music. This needs to stay in the islands." I said no. People
are going to want to dance, escape, have fun and now everybody wants
rhythm. I remember my boys were laughing at me when I said I was going to
do martial arts or Zumba. I was getting my waist action on. Dancing has
always been part of what I do. To see people adapting the Caribbean culture
and that rhythm is dope.

*What inspired you to sample sounds of Jupiter on “Borrowed Time.”*

I’m a fan of Marvin Gaye
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/309807/marvin-gaye/chart>, Bruce Hornsby
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/298442/bruce-hornsby/chart>, “That’s Just
The Way It Is,” even Tupac
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/431886/2pac/chart>sampled that. I always
felt like... and any time I say this people are like, "Man, you smoking
that Snoop <http://www.billboard.com/artist/279664/snoop-dogg/chart> kush,
n---a, [laughs], because I’m sampling shit from space. I’m always pushing
the envelope. So when I got approached by Apple Music, I’m an audio
engineer by trade. They told me they have this shuttle called Juno that
goes to space and records sounds from Jupiter and pictures and then comes
back on Earth.

So with the new NASA program, what they’re trying to do is... Because
eventually we’re going to have another planet in space. So the whole key
about it is to get people to start seeing that are more alike than
different. As a producer, dude is giving me access to Jupiter! So I said
fuck the native instruments right now, give me this Jupiter. So I got in
the room with scientists from NASA who played some stuff for me. I had just
smoked an L, so I was like this is ill because it’s about to take me

I can’t even front. I started listening to these sounds and I was just
amazed by how close we are together vs. separation. The record “Borrowed
Time” is a record for the time. I can’t see everything passing by the way
it is and don’t say anything. So I wanted to write something where I just
address everybody as opposed to addressing a certain side.

*Do you think that there is any culture appropriation now that many pop
artists are using Afrobeats and island-inspired music?*

I think it’s all good because what happens is that it spreads the math to a
mass that wouldn’t normally get it. When that happens, it allows a new
Wyclef to come in that people might not have seen yet coming. It allows a
new Shakira or a new Daddy Yankee
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/300083/daddy-yankee/chart> to come in.
People who wouldn’t normally be open to that music might be more open
because it’s being used in pop culture. My group that I love is Major Lazer
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/308937/major-lazer/chart>. They’re so dope
to me because when they got Justin Bieber
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/305459/justin-bieber/chart> to do music,
the whole vibe started changing.

They do it from that cultural aspect. With them as a sound system, they get
together with Justin, who's pop. You put that together, the music reaches
further. It’s good for everyone. Hardcore fans are always going to have
their opinions and they’re supposed to because they’re all about
preservation of culture.

*Being that you have always been outspoken with your platform and used your
following to make a difference, do you feel all artists have that
responsibility? Or can some truly just stick to music?*

I think that this is what makes the universe beautiful is the fact that we
aren’t all alike. My little nephew probably wants to do turn up music 24/7
and that’s beautiful. And their Uncle wants to sing, “If I was president…”
on “Maria Maria” and that’s beautiful. Avicii
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/280336/avicii/chart> wants to sing “Wake
Me Up,” Drake wants to sing “One Dance.” I’m telling people that I feel
like we’re at the most eclectic time musically.

When I did *The Carnival*, that was like 1997. I wasn’t even normal. It was
not normal to have an album and be of a hip-hop background with reggaeton.
You hear Afrobeat and all of that. We got in the game because we loved the
culture, and once you lose the sense of the pulse of the youth, you lose
your sense of the culture. I remember talking to Quincy Jones
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/277260/quincy-jones/chart> and he was
telling me, “Forever young, man. You can always feel that heartbeat through
the pulse of the youth.”

So through my daughter, it’s impossible for me not to be hip. She’s 12. We
can battle in any kind of dances out there and, at the same time, we can
compare remixes. She’s so brilliant, that she can hear a Pharrell record
and be like, "Dad, you could have wrote this record." She’s telling you
based on the work you already have... I think that the new generation is
well informed, but gradually though, you grow into that. On *The Score*, I
was militant when I’m talking about "If I could rule the world, everyone
would have a gun."

That’s the lyrics on there because at the time, coming from the projects,
we’d have to have two guns. This is the perspective of a black man and this
is what we’re going through and I’m going to state that. As I got older, my
mom did try to take the gun out of my hand, so how do I try and save some
of these kids. I start with my family members on that. Your perspective

*How do you feel a new Lauryn Hill album would fit into today’s music

Lauryn is like…once again, it don’t matter. That’s like saying how would a
Wyclef song fit. Our music ain’t for no time period. Funkmaster Flex played
a Fugee leak the other day on Hot 97. That record is 13 years old. Me and
Lauryn were like, "This is not no new Fugees." I could speak for her,
because I’ve known her since she was 14. You’ve got these artists and
they’re just different because they don’t do music, they do vibrations. So
it doesn’t matter what era they come.

Carlos Santana <http://www.billboard.com/artist/278142/santana/chart> was
having this conversation with me and I didn’t understand what he meant
because we had a lot of success when we did *Supernatural.* He’s the one I
can talk about Jimi Hendrix
<http://www.billboard.com/artist/304657/jimi-hendrix/chart> to. I can ask
what kind of shit went down at Woodstock. I saw this footage, man, y’all
was hammed up! *[laughs]* I can have these conversations. He said that
we’re just vibrations. That’s what Lauryn is. Once she focuses like a
telescope, it’s always a wrap. Whatever else she do is going to be
incredible. It’ll stop time. That’s just what she does.

*Being that you were heavily involved in the aftermath of the earthquake in
Haiti in 2010, can you talk to us about the aftermath of Hurricane Irma?*

Haiti wasn’t hit that hard, fortunately. But I got family all over. I’m
from Haiti Hispaniola, so I have family in the Dominican Republic. I also
have family in Cuba. I have family in St. Maarten. My whole family in St.
Maarten had to leave and go to Guadeloupe. Here, in the States, we’re
suffering a lot of devastation. If we pay attention to it, scientifically,
climate change is real. Every couple of years now, think about how we’re

Every couple of years, the storms keep getting worse and frequent. Coming
up it wasn’t that frequent. We have to start thinking about alternative
energy. Before you, there was the creation of nature, so we have to start
creating things and real prevention. These things have been going on for
years. They have evacuation centers, but at the same time, by the time the
shit has hit, it’s mad casualties.

*What else is coming up for this year?*

I’m really excited about my upcoming guitar line. You know how Jimmy Iovine
told Dr. Dre <http://www.billboard.com/artist/301270/dr-dre/chart> to make
headphones and stay to that? Wyclef is the hip-hop guitarist. I built
guitars naturally. So, I’m very excited about my guitar line and I really
don’t want to do partners yet. We’re building these incredible guitars
because I see all of the young generations, whether it’s the “Black
Beatles” or Thugger, everyone is pulling a guitar and it’s so dope.

I’m going to start giving y’all guitar lessons online. I’m excited about
that. That Wyclef Jean tutorial. I spent a little time in Berklee. I would
have been an ill professor if I had stayed. But I couldn’t. I do brand
myself as a hip-hop guitarist. Every 10 years, I’ve got a new scheme. So
I’m very excited about these next 10 years.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
September 21, 2017 at 11:34 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-xDr

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