Wyclef Jean

"Wyclef" redirects here. For similarly spelled articles, see Wycliffe (disambiguation).
Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean in 2008
Background information
Birth name Wyclef Jeanelle Jean
Also known as
  • Wyclef
  • Nel
  • Clef
Born (1969-10-17) October 17, 1969
Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti
  • Rapper
  • musician
  • actor
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
  • drums
  • keyboards
  • sampler
  • synthesizer
Years active 1993–present
Associated acts
Website wyclef.com

Wyclef Jeanelle Jean (/ˈwklɪf ˈʒɒn/; born on October 17, 1969)[1] is a Haitian rapper, musician and actor.[2][3] At the age of nine,[4] Jean moved to the United States with his family and has spent much of his life there. He first achieved fame as a member of the acclaimed New Jersey hip hop group the Fugees. Jean won three Grammy Awards for his musical work.[5]

On August 5, 2010, Jean filed for candidacy in the 2010 Haitian presidential election,[6] although the Electoral Commission subsequently ruled him ineligible to stand as he had not met the requirement to have been resident in Haiti for five years.[1][7]

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 performed a variety of charitable works in Haiti between 2005 and 2010, effectively closed in 2012 after much controversy over mismanagement of funds, with many believing that a large portion of the profits were not used for charitable purposes. Thus it has been claimed that much of the money raised by the organization in the Hope for Haiti Now telethon went to Jean's own benefit.[8]

Along with Carlos Santana, Avicii and Alexandre Pires, he 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.

Early life and personal life

Jean was born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, the son of a Nazarene pastor.[9] In 1982 Wyclef moved with his family to northern New Jersey. Jean 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.[10] 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.[11][12] Jean has been a resident of Saddle River, South Orange, and North Caldwell, New Jersey.[13][14] In 2009, Jean enrolled in the Berklee College of Music.[15]

In 1994, he married Fusha designer Marie Claudinette.[16] In 2005, they adopted their daughter, Angelina Claudinelle Jean. The couple renewed their vows in August 2009.[17]

His "uncle", strictly a cousin, (Jean's mother is Joseph's first cousin)[18] the political activist, journalist and diplomat Raymond Alcide Joseph has been the Haitian ambassador to the United States since 2005, and came to prominence as a spokesman for his country after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. Together with Wyclef, he issued an appeal for international aid.[19]

On March 19, 2011, Jean claimed that he was shot in the palm of his right hand in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The police reported otherwise saying that Wyclef was not wounded by a bullet but was cut by glass. Police Chief Vanel Lacroix said "we met with the doctor who saw him and he confirmed Wyclef was cut by glass."[20][21]

Music career

Fugees era

After the group formed in the 1980s under the name Tranzlator Crew, they signed to Ruffhouse Records and Columbia Records in 1993; they then changed their name to Fugees – an abbreviation of "refugees", also a reference to Haitian immigrants.[22] The group's debut album, Blunted on Reality, was released in 1994. It achieved limited commercial success, only peaking at number 62 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart: however, the album peaked at number 122 on the UK Albums Chart in 1997, and was certified gold by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP).[23][24][25] Blunted on Reality spawned three singles: "Boof Baf", "Nappy Heads" and "Vocab". "Nappy Heads" became their first single to appear on the US Billboard Hot 100, charting at number 49.[26]

"Killing Me Softly"
The Fugees' "Killing Me Softly" from The Score

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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, and was later certified six-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It performed well in several overseas territories, topping the Austrian, Canadian, French, German and Swiss albums charts, whilst also peaking at number two in Sweden and the United Kingdom.[24][27][28][29]

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).[26][30] 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,[31] 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.[32]

"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".

Solo career

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;[33] 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.[34][35]

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,[36] 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.[37]

Wyclef Jean performing at a UNAIDS concert in 2006

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."[38]

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 and scored the Angelina Jolie documentary A Place in Time.[39]

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).[40] 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.[41] 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 Ali Naqvi.

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.[42] In this album, Wyclef uses the alias Toussaint St. Jean, his alter ego, when he raps.[43]

Wyclef Jean's upcoming 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.[42] 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 banned the video.[44]

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.[45] He worked with Avicii on a single titled "Divine Sorrow" from his upcoming album Clefication.

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".[46]

Jean has also appeared as a featured vocalist in The Knocks' single "Kiss The Sky", which was released in January 2016. This song is expected to be a part of their debut album, entitled 55, scheduled to be 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.[47]

Yéle Haiti

Further information: Yéle Haiti

In 2001, Jean established "Yéle Haiti" a charitable organization known legally as the Wyclef Jean Foundation and incorporated in Illinois. The foundation became active in the aftermath of 2004's Hurricane Jeanne, when it provided scholarships to 3,600 children in Gonaïves, Haiti, with funding from Comcel. It continued to provide scholarships, school funding, meals and other charitable benefits to citizens of Haiti in the following years. The foundation, named with a word coined by Jean meaning "cry for freedom", achieved a higher profile and a great deal of funding in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake that devastated Haiti and its capital Port-au-Prince. According to Jean, Yéle raised over $1 million in 24 hours using a plea on Twitter[48] and more through Jean's participation in an MTV donation drive and other publicity efforts to benefit survivors of the earthquake.[49] Together with George Clooney, Jean organized the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon. It was the most watched telethon to date in history, and aired on almost every network and many cable channels. Jean gave the last performance of the telethon, and performed a medley of songs that ended with Haiti's traditional Rara music.[50] Following the earthquake, the Yéle organization 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.[51][52][53][54]

Not long after the earthquake and Jean's heavily publicized efforts to raise money for disaster relief, questions were raised about the history and management of the Yéle charity. A New York Times article, working from an investigation performed by the Smoking Gun website, reported that the Wyclef Jean Foundation failed to file required tax returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007 until 2009, and that by early 2010, returns and records for 2008 had still not been filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The article, which included allegations by the Smoking Gun of mismanagement of funds, also reported criticism of the foundation by its former executive director, Sanjay Rawal, questioning its ability to handle large projects and its lack of financial controls.[55]

Between 2005 and 2012, Yéle Haiti has been managed by Rawal, co-founder and former chief executive Hugh Locke, Wyclef Jean (until he announced his candidacy in August 2010 for the presidency of Haiti) and former chief executive Derek Q. Johnson. In August 2012, Johnson resigned from his position and announced the closure of the charity, saying in a statement to supporters "As the foundation’s sole remaining employee, my decision implies the closure of the organization as a whole." Johnson's resignation also came in the wake of an investigation by the New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, and the failure of settlement talks between the attorney general's office and the charity over allegations of mismanagement - including improper payments by the charity to Jean, members of his family and others connected to Jean. A forensic audit conducted by Schneiderman's office also disclosed that in 2010, the year of the earthquake in Haiti, the organization had spent over $9 million - half of it on travel alone. The charity, which remains closed, is also the target of lawsuits in Haiti for unpaid debts.[54]


Although Jean has only been active in Haitian politics, in 2011 he told Women's Wear Daily that he was "a big fan of Sarah Palin", a right-wing American politician from the Republican Party.[56] It was reported erroneously that Jean would be attending the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.[57][58]

2010 Haitian presidential campaign

On August 5, 2010, Wyclef confirmed the rumors that he was running for office by telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he was running, though Blitzer had questions about Jean's actual citizenship and passport. In an article written by Exclaim! magazine[59] it was mentioned that Jean will be stepping down as the chairman of Yéle Haiti. On August 5, Jean formally filed papers as a candidate for the 2010 Haitian presidential election, following media speculation that he would make his announcement that evening on Larry King Live.[60][61][62][63] Wyclef would have run as a candidate for the Viv Ansanm (Live Together) political party.[64]

Aside from opposition from Sean Penn regarding Jean's Haitian presidential plans, Arcade Fire's Win Butler (whose wife Regine is Haitian) stated in a radio interview:

"Technically, Wyclef Jean shouldn't be eligible because he hasn't been a resident of Haiti. And I think him not speaking French and not being fluent in Creole would be a really major issue in trying to run a really complex government, like the government in Haiti. It would kind of be like Arnold Schwarzenegger only speaking Austrian German and being elected president of the United States after New York City and LA had burned to the ground ... I think he is a great musician and he really passionately cares about Haiti. I really hope he throws his support behind someone who is really competent and really eligible."[65]

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 residency requirement of having lived in Haiti for five years before the November 28 election.[7] Afterwards, Wyclef stated:

I respectfully accept the committee's final decision, and I urge my supporters to do the same.[66]

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."[67]

Appearances in television and film

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
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 featured artist) 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

Year Nominee/work Award Result
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




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Preceded by
Trevor Nelson
MTV Africa Music Awards host
Succeeded by
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