30 minutes with ... Wyclef Jean
The ex-fugee talks about his ‘pocket full of cheese’ and inspiring Beyoncé – all while jogging
Hello Wyclef! Where are you and what’s happening? Right now I’m in Jersey (1). After this interview I’ll hit the track and do a nice run with my daughter and wife. In high school, my wife was a track star so she keeps me forever slim jim!
Your album The Carnival came out in 1997 and Carnival Vol II appeared in 2007. Now here we are with The Carnival Vol III in 2017. Will there be another in 10 years?
Yeah, you already know it! Every 10, you get a Carnival!
Can the Guardian run an exclusive about your summer 2027 release?
Of course! You can announce it now: The Return of the Perfect Gentleman. That’s the working title.
We’re 16 years on from Perfect Gentleman. What do you imagine Maxine is doing now? (2)
Actually, that song was based on a real person. I’d say music resonates, no matter the year, if you base your stories on real events. The last time I spoke to Maxine was about four years ago – she went on to get into medicine.
So Maxine ultimately paid her tuition? I think she’s doing alternative medicine now. Some of it’s in the cannabis industry, epilepsy for kids … some of it’s also in the idea of different herbs for healing. Sometimes you have a headache and you don’t need the aspirin because there are so many alternatives you can take. I’m really into that.
On your new album, Turn Me Good is about getting to Zion and having sex. What else happens after death?
That was inspired by Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye. I wanted to create something more metaphorical: asking what are you going to do when you get to that place of glory? It’s all about what you think the metaphor should mean. Some people would make love, others might change the world.
I suppose having sex and changing the world aren’t mutually exclusive.
I believe in doing both!
On another song, Shotta Boys, there’s the line: “Every time they see me they ask two questions: Wyclef Jean, when’s the next Fugee album, when’s Shottas Part 2?” (3) How many times a day do you get asked those questions? I get asked them religiously, like they’re part of a religion! It’s all good, though, I have no problem answering them.
What else have you been doing in the eight years since your last album? I’ve been working on a new coding solution for audio.
Something like MP3 or WAV?
Yes. The working title is Stems. I’m probably a year and a half away. I want to enhance how we hear music passed through to a stereo. As an audio engineer, that’s what I’m excited about.
You worked with Destiny’s Child early on. I’m sure you get asked this all the time but what was Latavia like?
It was definitely incredible! I always knew Beyoncé would be great because when Destiny’s Child were opening for me on tour, every time they got off stage she would go get changed then stand at the side of the stage and watch my show like a hawk. A lot of artists perform, get changed and then leave. I knew this one was gonna be dangerous: I thought, she’s not just interested in music, she wants to be a megastar. She studied the entire game.
When The Rock told you it didn’t matter (4) that you had a pocket full of cheese and a garden full of trees, the cheese was figurative, right?
Cheese is money in that sense.
Do you still have a pocket full of cheese and a garden full of trees? Definitely. You know! Man – I do have a garden full of trees.
When’s the next Fugees album and when’s Shottas Part 2?
When the Fugees are ready, I’ll always be ready. As for Shottas Part 2, I ain’t part of that but if they need me, I’d be honoured. But the most important thing about this interview is that through it all, I’ve been jogging.
Yes! If this was Facetime you’d see the funniest shit. I’m in the hot sun, I’m sweating, but you haven’t heard me breathe hard once yet! (5) Thank you so much! And let all my fans in England know I’m looking forward to coming soon!
Carnival Vol. III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee is out today