10 COM­MAND­MENTS: WYCLEF JEAN

The rap­per and mu­si­cian’s rules for life.

Q (UK) - - Contents -

Pop, pol­i­tics and Mick Jag­ger – the “Amadeus of hip-hop” on his recipe for life.

KARMA IS GONNA GET YOU

The num­ber one thing I’ve learned as a mu­si­cian is: do unto oth­ers as you would have them do unto you. I call that the law of karma. You look back and be like, “I re­mem­ber when I was 27 this per­son was an ass­hole to me.” Or it could be the re­verse and be like, “Oh, this per­son was great...” Now you’re in a po­si­tion to help some­one, you’re go­ing to help the peo­ple that wouldn’t have shit on you on your way up.

KNOW WHEN TO MOVE ON

As a pro­ducer, when I was work­ing on 1996 Fugees hit] Killing Me Softly and the record ex­ploded it was like when I was in high school and they were giv­ing me all this sheet mu­sic to learn when I wanted to do my own songs. I liked Killing Me Softly, but I wanted to write my own Killing Me Softly. On Ready Or Not I sam­pled Enya, but I was like, “I want to cre­ate my own Enya!” With hip-hop you do one record and then you’re sup­posed to do another one and another one, so ours was a unique story. We just knew sec­ond LP] The Score was spe­cial. Maybe if we had gone on to do two, three, four of them then you wouldn’t have got The Mise­d­u­ca­tion Of Lau­ryn Hill or you wouldn’t have got Gone Till Novem­ber.

MU­SIC CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE. LIT­ER­ALLY

When I first started to play mu­sic it saved my life. When you’re in these com­mu­ni­ties as a teenager, mu­sic gave me a refuge. I was find­ing my­self through po­etry, through sounds and that dis­tracted me from be­ing on the block. At times when a shoot­ing was go­ing on, I missed it by 15 min­utes be­cause I’d de­cided to prac­tise this Jimi Hen­drix solo.

GENRE IS JUST A WORD

Genre is noth­ing but a con­cept. The world re­volves around fu­sion. Car­los Santana taught me that, so I just do mu­sic. It could be a song like Maria Maria that I wrote years ago – DJ Khaled calls me and he’s like, “Yo, can I sam­ple this song?” So it be­comes Ri­hanna col­lab­o­ra­tion] Wild Thoughts. As long as it’s pure and it’s real, it’s go­ing to hap­pen.

THINK LONG, LONG-TERM

When I do mu­sic, I’ll be like, “In 10,000 years will peo­ple still like this song?” Peo­ple say, “What’s big­ger than a hit?” I say, “A cul­tural phe­nom­e­non.” When you cre­ate that, it don’t have no colour, it don’t have no creed, no noth­ing. Ev­ery­one in ev­ery coun­try is just sing­ing it.

GET MOVES LIKE JAG­GER

I was do­ing a gig in Shep­herd’s Bush in London and I looked up at the bal­cony and I see Mick Jag­ger. I told the DJ, “Stop ev­ery­thing, put one of Mick Jag­ger’s records on so he can un­der­stand how he’s in­flu­enced me.” He was one of those peo­ple that made pop cul­ture think about things that it wouldn’t have nec­es­sar­ily looked at. For ex­am­ple, he’s the rea­son peo­ple in pop cul­ture fig­ured out who Peter Tosh was in 1978]. Peo­ple were say­ing, “Who’s this guy sing­ing with Mick Jag­ger?” For me, get­ting the chance to be in the stu­dio with Mick on his 2001 solo LP] was one of the most mind-bog­gling ex­pe­ri­ences.

A PER­FECT GEN­TLE­MAN HAS RE­SPECT

2000 solo hit] Per­fect Gen­tle­man was a record I did about how there was a strip club around the cor­ner from school and there was this girl who was strip­ping and she ended up be­com­ing a doc­tor. What makes the per­fect gen­tle­man? It’s that if you go to that bar it’s im­por­tant that you un­der­stand that these peo­ple have fam­i­lies and they’re do­ing this as a hus­tle. So the per­fect gen­tle­man would leave big tips, baby!

MIX POP AND POL­I­TICS

Be­fore I de­cided to run for the pres­i­dency of Haiti in 2010] the coun­try was be­ing run by an old regime so I felt like the cy­cle needed to change. When they took me out of the race I gave my sup­port to singer turned politi­cian] Michel Martelly and it broke the cy­cle. The idea that a mu­si­cian couldn’t be pres­i­dent went out the win­dow.

MONEY ISN’T EV­ERY­THING

What’s the value of life? Is it bil­lions of dol­lars? You can have some­one who is work­ing a nine to five job, they come home, they’re happy as hell. The true essence of life is fam­ily and friends.

WORK THE CHOIR

I’m like the choir di­rec­tor. Ev­ery Sun­day, I see who’s work­ing the solo, I do the ar­range­ments to make the con­gre­ga­tion feel some­thing. My longevity is based on the fact that I’m com­poser and con­duc­tor. I’m like the hip-hop Amadeus, man. ■ The Car­ni­val, Vol III: The Rise And Fall Of A Refugee is out 15 Septem­ber.

“Mind-bog­gling”: Mick Jag­ger.

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