A throwrowback interview between Gigi Capone and Wyclef Jean during the peak of The Warrior Movement in 2009, unaltered and unpublished until now.
The setting: Somewhere between nearly the end of the MySpace era and prior to the birth of the hashtag. Little did we know we were pioneering in the music industry’s digital revolution too.
GENERATION “R”THE REVOLUTIONARIES
Humanitarian, hope, hero, these are all words one could use to describe multi platinum Grammy Award winning artist Wyclef Jean.
On Tuesday January 12, 2009 a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. There were over 200,000 people killed and 800,000 to 1 million injured. Between January 12th and February 1st, 2010 scientists have measured at least 54 aftershocks and are stating that The Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system is to blame. There has not been a earthquake even close to this magnitude since 1860.
Only 12 hours after the earthquake struck Port-Au-Prince Wyclef Jean flew into Haiti and began removing dead bodies out of the streets with his wife Claudette. In an on the ground interview with a news reporter Wyclef described what he was looking at in Haiti as “Armageddon”. During an interview with Oprah he stated that walking into the city was like “walking into a morgue”. Wyclef went on to describe the devastation and death that surrounded him as “hell”.
With little to no sleep Mr. Jean has spent his every moment either in Haiti saving lives, helping his country organize and rebuild, or in The United States raising money through his Non Government Organization of choice “Yele Haiti”.
One fact for certain is that this human catastrophe is not just something that is going to go away overnight. Long term planning and funding will be required to rebuild. Upon Wyclef’s first return from Haiti since the earthquake he released this statement:
“Haiti faced a natural disaster of unprecedented proportion, an earthquake unlike anything the country has ever experienced. The magnitude 7.0 earthquake and several very strong aftershocks struck only 10 miles from Port-au-Prince. I cannot stress enough what a human disaster this is and idle hands will only make this tragedy worse. The over 2 million people in Port-au-Prince tonight, are facing catastrophe alone. We must act now. President Obama has already said that the U.S. stands ready to assist the Haitian people. The U.S. Military is the only group trained and prepared to offer that assistance immediately. They must do so as soon as possible. The international community must also rise to the occasion and help the Haitian people in every way possible.” – Wyclef
After the release of this statement not only has the United States shown an astonishing amount of support (The Obama Administration pledged $100 million dollars), in fact every other country of the world has immediately responded as well. Thousands of charities have responded to the call for action.
Within the first 24 hours Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund raised 1 million dollars with its SMS Text fundraising campaign. Wyclef has set out to continue raising 1 million dollars a day ever since.
Many experts are contributing the success of Yele Haiti’s texting campaign to the miracle of modern technology being combined with social media platforms, such as Twitter and Myspace. With a following of over 1,376,348 on twitter, 191,781 friends on myspace, 274,253 on Facebook just to mention a few, spreading the word online has proven to work in Jean’s favor.
Wyclef Jean is also the founder of The Warrior Movement. A movement that consists of positive people worldwide who have come together to support each other in making a positive difference in the world, and in music. The Warriors are many in number and all you have to do is log on to twitter, you are sure to see them.
Wherever you see Wyclef online you see him reppin’ Yele Haiti and The Warrior’s to the fullest. In return, The Warriors support him right back. If it sounds like I am bias well you are probably right. Surely an easy recruit, I’m the West Coast President for Wyclef’s Warrior Movement. Wyclef is The East Coast President. We also Have A European Leader (@Avispas on twitter), and a UK Leader (@Xsumax on Twitter) as well. The movement is in its grassroots and will take 3-5 years to fully develop.
Wyclef’s vision for The Warrior Movement is long term and will prove to be THE largest movement in history if he and the other Warrior Movement leaders have anything to say about it. Wyclef and The Warrior Movement will not fail Haiti in its time of need. We all belong to what I like to refer as “Generation R”, The Revolutionaries. Those selflessly making the necessary difference in an era of change.
Pulling dead bodies of thousands of men, women and children out of the streets with your wife. Dealing with the loss of family members, a best friend and other loved ones, on top of being surrounded by nothing but death and devastation all at one time… would have been enough to buckle the average man the first day.
Not Wyclef Jean AKA Toussaint St. Jean though, he is amongst the mightiest of Warriors. Wyclef has been going full force nonstop with endless press conferences, ongoing trips to Haiti to assist with saving his people, rebuilding, and then right back to back charity fundraisers for his country.
Since mid January Wyclef Has hosted The MTV Hope For Haiti Now Telethon and BET’s SOS Help For Haiti Telethon with Diddy, Queen Latifah and Pharrell Williams. He also appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show, participated in the remake of “We are the world” with musical genius Quincy Jones and filmed a video of one of his new songs Hold On Haiti ft. Movado.
I’m not sure how the man finds the strength let alone the energy to do all of these amazing things, but I guarantee if you asked him if he was ready for more he would use one of his often utilized quotes “I’m from the hut, I STAY READY”.
Prior to the earthquake in Haiti the superstar artist had several irons in the fire.
After years away, Wyclef Jean AKA “Toussaint St. Jean” emerges triumphantly back on to the hip hop scene to reclaim his Hip Hop royalty with his new EP, “FROM THE HUT TO THE PROJECTS TO THE MANSION” co-signed by one of Hip Hop’s most influential DJ’s, The Aphilliates own DJ DRAMA.
My interview with the multi-platinum Grammy award winning artist shortly before the earthquake was anything but brief. I spent well over an hour with the veteran discussing not only his impressive comeback, but also a variety of subjects spanning from his life in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti to the name of his favorite guitar.
Wyclef is a complete professional and took the time to answer every last question in vivid detail. Finally I would be able to ask all the questions I always wanted to know about the rapper, producer, and member of the highly acclaimed hip hop trio The Fugees. His poise and humble demeanor quickly put my anxiety to rest and we got right down to the business at hand.
“I listened to the entire mixtape and for me it was like reading a book from beginning to end.” I said to him, from the outside looking in one would have been able to tell that we were both ready to do work, right then and there.
“That’s why in the beginning me and DJ Drama decided to call it from the hut to the projects to the mansion. Its warrior music, it’s like a scroll.”
“You went from a hut, to the projects, to a mansion; do you ever feel overwhelmed with your many accomplishments?” There was a brief moment of silence, I could tell he was thinking about his reply before he casually answered me with his slightly detectable accent:
“It has to go back to who your role models are when you decide to get into the game, you know what I mean? For me I’m a student of Jazz, hip hop and reggae naturally and when I decided to get into the game one of my role models was Quincy Jones. I always wanted to be like Quincy Jones. I always wanted to be a producer and looking at what Quincy Jones has done and what he is still doing; I still think my best work is up ahead.”
“Let’s talk about the mixtape!”
“When I started using my twitter it was sorta giving me a direct communication with my fan base. The Fugee fans and the Wyclef fans that had The Carnival were like “Yo Clef you know we love the singin’ man but what’s up we miss you rhymin? We need some of that too!”. So I was like man I gotta go ahead and do like a mixtape for these people. Being that I hadn’t done it in a while, what I did was take my time. For me it was like I went to hip hop school and learned to rhyme all over again, so I created the character Toussaint St.Jean, inspired from the revolutionist Toussaint L’Ouverture. The name was actually given to me by T.I. when I was working with him in the studio in Atlanta, so I was like ok when Wyclef spits now he’s gonna be Toussaint St.Jean and Wyclef Jean will be that guy that is a singer”.
Clef went on to tell me about the preparation he took before making this mixtape:
“So it was like and then….. Listening to tonation and stuff; I listened to every Lil Wayne mixtape, I listened to every Drake mixtape, and you know I listened to every mixtape in the underground. There was a lot of good underground music that I listened to. Before I did this mixtape I was definitely like I was in swagger school 101 (He laughs) you know what I mean?”.
Being the impulsive journalist I am without even thinking I blurted out.
“Well was it awkward?” and he replied nonchalantly.
“It definitely was not awkward for me because if you hear my lyrics and what I am talking about, I said things like when I started I was a battle rapper but my battle raps couldn’t get me groceries from the supermarket so I had to I had to find a new target to aim at. I went from food stamps to the black Amex”.
You know like for me I was more like rhyming was always easy. I used to battle kids in school for money. I never really lost a battle you know but one day a teacher was like you can only battle but so much, you got to translate this into songs. But for me hip hop is always the most natural form I could articulate a simple message I wanted to get to the streets.”
Ok, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the EP. Now on this EP did you do your own production on the entire project or if you didn’t , who has features on it? I asked.
“The good thing is that of course the EP was produced by myself and Jerry Wonder. I wrote all my lyrics and my songs myself, all my hooks, all my melodies, everything you hear is coming from me. I also had additional production by D-12, one of DJ Dramas DJ -producers and DJ Drama came in on some stuff. You know we had some cool little local producers which is cool. One of their names is Taren, (Delivery Boy) which I met on twitter, he was really cool. Another kid by the name of Devin. But everything you are hearing as far as the story, the rhymes, the hooks, the melodies and all of that stuff, that all is coming solely from me. It was like a book, so that was just like sitting down and writing a book”.
It was refreshing to see that Wyclef had remained grounded and was more than happy to give credit to those other than himself who contributed to his project. Now it was time for me to go in.
“Now how did you develop your guitar skills and how long did it take?”
“Guitar for me it was a way of survival you know what I mean? When I was in the hood and I had got into some trouble, I always remember my mom. She bought me this guitar and she was like use this weapon it’s going to be much better. I never picked up a guitar as a way of saying I want to be the best guitar player, when I picked it up it was a way of survival. I was like I am going to use this instrument so I can eat in the future.”
“Can you take us through a typical studio session while producing from start to finish?
“I mean really from start to finish, when I get into the studio, usually I have like a bunch of … I call them like voices that’s inside my head, and with the voices I just start to lay down what I call the skeleton. The skeleton might be a drum pattern or just a guitar theme you know and then I loop the guitar theme and let it keep playing, and then the words start coming to my mind.
While all that’s going on I’m recording everything because I don’t know what I’m going to use later. I never use a pen or a paper to write lyrics, everything is always done spontaneous. When I am finished and the song is finished in its entirety, I have a kid go back and print up all the lyrics on the computer. Sometimes lyrics come first, sometimes melodies, sometimes beats… it all depends”.
Nowadays it is hard to go online to any social network without hearing about Wyclef Jean’s “Warrior Movement”. The unity in the movement itself is like none other I have ever seen. The power of the internet has given the power back to the people, it has given every person in this world a platform to be heard.
Prior to the internet to have your message heard you had to know somebody or have a huge spending budget to be heard. The art of payola as we know it was at its highest peak. The birth of the internet has empowered every artist and independent label in the world with a way to be heard with little or even no budget at all. Labels are losing power quickly and are being forced to give the little guys a chance, who may not had that opportunity before.
Wyclef is an artist who came from a hut and then migrated to America where he lived in the projects. With his music and his impeccable hustle he made it to a mansion. The buck didn’t stop there though. After all the platinum hits, after all the Grammys, after all the money, Wyclef didn’t forget about his people or his fans who helped him achieve his dreams.
Jean continues to give back to those in need not only in his country, but in the U.S. as well through his countless charitable deeds and humanitarian efforts. There are presidential candidates who spend millions upon millions of dollars to gain the vote of blue collar Americans during election season whom have never had a following as strong as Wyclef’s t Warrior Movement. Naturally I had to ask …
“Wyclef When did the Warrior Movement begin and how did it come to be?”
The Fugees were actually the first hip hop group ever to be online you know what I mean? Me personally I started going online about 5 months ago with my Twitter and My Facebook, and what I noticed is that is where the grass root people sit. The authors sit there, the people who wouldn’t normally have their books in the book store but is going to share information, they sit there. You the struggling writers and artists that want to get their shit heard and hope that somebody gives them a chance, they sit there. The philosophers sit there, the local bands sit right there on the net. To me that’s just warriors because at the end of the day, no matter what struggle they’re going through, they’re gonna make sure their voices get heard. The Warriors Movement naturally started like that.
Wyclef continues on seamlessly without missing a beat and suddenly I’m feeling like I’m being taken to music school.
With me trying to deal with the streets a lot, you have all types of kids in all types of gangs. I was like here is a gang that anyone can join whether you’re a crip or a blood, whether you’re a Latin king whether you’re an Ese, whatever you feel you are… you can still be a part of the warrior movement. Our warrior movement isn’t there to exit anyone out, it is there to bring them in and show them a different lifestyle. You see what I’m saying? The Warrior Movement is something I started online but now it is picking up on the streets. The true revolution isn’t with arms, it’s with the mind. I never say firearms are not necessary in my speech. I say firearms are the last resort, firearms should be a way of protecting yourself and your family if necessary and that’s it” Wyclef said with a true voice of sincerity.
Clef validated the strength of his “Warrior Movement” through the power of the internet. His new release “From The hut To the Projects to the Mansion” topped the iTunes charts at #1 after only being available for exactly one day. Next The Warriors proved their strength again by coming together at the drop of a dime to raise money for Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund, only hours after the earthquake hit. They have been helping the donations come in everyday. It just goes to prove that there is nothing that can’t be accomplished through showing other’s unconditional love.
Wyclef continues to show love conquers all through his music and humanitarian efforts each and every day. He is sure to go down in history for his revolutionary efforts.
Be sure to stay tuned to Tapwire Magazine for more Wyclef Music Updates. Wyclef has a solo album due to release this summer and a book releasing next year entitled Memoirs of Wyclef Jean.
You can count on me to follow up with him on all his upcoming releases and share them with you. If you would like to keep up with keep with Wyclef Jean music and The Warrior Movement yourself go to wyclef.com, also add him to Myspace, Twitter and Facebook.