September 20, 2012
Anyone who needs to catch up with hip-hop star Wyclef Jean just has to refresh his Twitter feed.
“You know I’m direct about everything,” says Jean, 42.
Some things need more than a tweet to explain, though, so Jean has written an autobiography, “Purpose” (It Books) on sale Tuesday, that explores his political, financial and personal turmoil, including an extramarital affair with fellow Fugee Lauryn Hill.
The book opens with Jean hearing the news that a catastrophic earthquake has struck Haiti, the Caribbean country where he was born. The Grammy-winning multimillionaire returned home the next morning, trying to make sense of the chaos and overwhelming loss of life.
He kicked his Yele Haiti Foundation into overdrive to help survivors, and the urgency to get Haitians back to work drove Jean to announce his candidacy during Haiti’s 2010 presidential elections.
Both efforts, though, eventually left him reeling from criticism over his methods and motives. His presidential campaign was cut short, while Yele faced allegations of financial improprieties that benefited the singer.
In his book, Jean dismisses the problems at Yele as complications of a small charity's sudden growth. After a restructuring, Jean writes, “We are a completely transparent organization and I invite the world’s curiosity.”
In a conversation with The Associated Press, Jean compares those setbacks with the success he achieved with the Fugees, whose second album “The Score” remains one of the best-selling hip-hop records of all time.
AP: Do you think you’re going to run for president of Haiti again in a couple years?
Jean: (chuckling) ... Keep in mind, right, that y’all always say “my run for the presidency” but there’s something you all must add — Wyclef never even got a chance to run for the presidency. It was sort of like, before I could even spit out who my technicians are, what are my policies, it was like, “Yo, this guy don’t have no technicians, this guy don’t have no policies, he’s not running, get him out!” Right now, it’s definitely, like, not in the focus.
AP: How was working on a book different from working on an album?
Jean: It takes you back to a place and to a time. I always tell people, the easiest thing for me in the book was talking about the Fugees. Because, you know, you’re young, you’re rock and roll. The hardest thing in the book was probably talking about my relationship with my dad. Growing up in a Christian household and then defying that and saying I’m going to be a rapper, and after they bring you from Haiti and the expectations, what they expect from you, and the fact that he never really came to my shows. ...
AP: The book brings up some of your personal drama (extramarital affairs, including an on-again, off-again relationship with Hill) and your wife in the books comes off as being one of the most patient people in the world. What was her reaction to the book?
Jean: The main thing about me is, I’m just bluntly honest, you know what I mean? It’s like, I’m a man. Beyond my book, it’s in my music. If I’m going through something, you’ll hear it in my music. Like, if you’ve heard “The Carnival” — “To all the girls I’ve cheated on before, it’s a new year ... I’m in love with two women, who is it going to be now?” This is not (something) I waited like 20 years later to be like, boom. I just basically stated the stuff that happened when it happened. ... They say, what’s the secret? I say, first, the person I was trying to be with had to be a friend first, and clearly I would say that's how we made it through.
AP: Was there any kind of bitterness when ex-Fugee Pras Michel came out and supported Haitian musician-turned-politician Michel Martelly instead of you early in your so-called run for the president?
Jean: No. ... There’s a clear line, you know, between music and politics. And if you decide that you’re going to be a political candidate or run for that, then you have to have (what are called in Haitian Creole) “iron pants.” You basically have to be ready for everything to come at you, and whatever you expect, expect different. ... As you can see, it was a lot of people coming at me, so that tells me a lot about myself, you know what I mean — my strengths, and what I possess. I always say, you come at me, I only weigh a buck-seventy-five, but you’re coming after what created me and you’re going to have a lot on your hands, because that’s God.