MUSICIAN AND RAPPER - WYCLEF JEAN
"This makes me feel good, and that is what music is supposed to do. Sometimes I think we forget that." - Wyclef Jean, Grammy award-winning musician
This week on Science hear about cave paintings found in Spain that could date back farther than 64,000 years ago. This is crazy because modern humans didn't come to Europe until 44,000 years ago, meaning this could be the work of Neanderthals. Then get a sneak peek of the podcast this week with musician Wyclef Jean and he inspires What Fuels You with thinking outside the box. the Oscars are on The Roast and new bag designs are revealed from The World's Strongest Coffee.
ABOUT WYCLEF JEAN:
For the second time, Grammy award-winning musician Wyclef Jean is on the show. (If you missed the first episode, click here for that amazing interview.) This time we catch up with Wyclef backstage on tour in support of his Carnival 3 album and learn he is already working on his next big thing. "Wyclef Goes Back To School" is a mixtape that Wyclef is putting together and seeking out raw talent from college campus across the nation to be featured n the album and a tour to follow. Wyclef lays out all the details, including the first single 'Sak Kap Fet'. There are also plans for a new Myspace in conjunction with Heads Music, and Wyclef relays some sage advice he got from Prince.
Wyclef Jean: But we went from cassette tapes to streaming rates, right? So, it's like, to have music and continue to put music, and then reaching generation after generation, it's a cool feeling.
Jeff: Yeah, totally. And I've been following you on social media and every night you guys are just like putting out a show-
Wyclef Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Jeff: Like for everybody and it's so much fun. How big is the band on this tour? It seems like every night that you guys are doing Instagram live or something like that, it seems like there's like two or three more people that come on stage with you guys.
Dustin: Like a bunch of traveling gypsies, you know.
Wyclef Jean: That is it, it's traveling gypsies. That's the word. You know, because the way that it works is, being a church boy, it's like I always set up the stage like you're in my recording studio, so we got the drums, we got the keyboards, we got the computer and everything, and my team knows me and every night I said there's no set list. And it's really a vibe and an energy.
So I set it up so anything can happen at any time of night. I don't really put it in a routine form, right? 'Cause... like yesterday we was in Boston and next thing you know my crew from Brooklyn was like, "Yo, we ridin' to Boston. We got the Voodoo horns with us." And they showed up with these instruments from Haiti. Like these 100-year-old instruments that sound like seashells, but they built out of steel pieces and then, "Whoa! Whoa!", and it basically sounds like a whole tribe is coming. So we did The Carnival, they jumped on and, what's the name of that band?
female speaker: Culture Crew.
Wyclef Jean: Yeah, Culture Crew. Last night at the end of the night I was like, "You know what, we gonna do like after hours", the crowd doesn't wanna leave, they come back on. My man Kofi Black jumps on, and it's literally another half-an-hour jam session... it's like after the show there's an after night show, that's what's going on now.
Jeff: Wow, that's awesome!
Wyclef Jean: It's really a carnival.
Jeff: It sounds like if you're coming to one of your shows you're gonna get the most authentic experience cause you're leaving it up to the night. How you're feeling and how the crowd is responding. Not having a set list seems though like the way to go when it comes to something like that.
Wyclef Jean: Yeah, but ever since I was little, like even with the Fugees, I really don't believe in set lists. I just believe in a vibe and an energy, because we know the records. We created them. Like, we know how to sing 'em through the years, but I think when you give the audience an experience its something totally different.
Jeff: Totally. That's just great. We're so stoked that you guys are doing so well on the road. And something else we wanted to bring up. You just dropped a new single, which is awesome by the way-
Wyclef Jean: Sak Kap Fet!
Jeff: Yeah! Okay. I gotta ask, you come out with a record like Carnival 3, you're going on the road with it, and then on the heels of that now you've got a brand new project in the works, kicking off with this single.
Wyclef Jean: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: Do you have material just laying in the wings, or are you writing on the road?
Wyclef Jean: Man, you know ... It's hard to explain, but the best way to explain it is, music is like drinking water-
Wyclef Jean: So, I had an idea called ... Cause you know when people is like, "Yo, the kids are putting four or five mixtapes out every three or four months", when I was on Sony that's what I wanted to do. I was like, "Yo, why can't I put out a Hip Hop album, a Jazz album, a Reggae album", and they was like, "No, everything has to be formatted and structured." That's why I love this time period. So basically, I had the idea of Wyclef goes back to school-
Wyclef Jean: Which would be the next mix tape. And then, I ... there was a young man by the name of Kofi, Kofi Black. So we had connected through Sus One, I was doing an interview, and then we was supposed to get in the studio and just work. But I was on the road, I was moving, he was moving. And then one day I had four days off.
Wyclef Jean: And I was like, so I got a hold of Kofi, that's Kofi and I was like, "Yo let's come and catch a vibe". I literally kid you not. We went in the studio and came up with an entire mix tape.
Jeff: Oh my gosh. Wow.
Wyclef Jean: In four days. So, once again, like music, when it breeds the right energy, cause when you hear Sak Kap Fet, you're like man this just makes me feel good, I don't know. And that's what music is really supposed to do. And I think sometimes we forget that, you know?
Dustin: Yeah. With this Wyclef Goes Back To School and it sounds like you're almost on a talent hunt for kids out there trying to get their music out. Is there anything specifically that you're looking for in the kids that you're working with?
Wyclef Jean: Well the thing about Wyclef Goes Back to School, I wanna leave the forum open. I've had this idea for a long time. I remember I went to two colleges, even though I didn't stay, cause I had to leave. One was Five Town College in Long Island and the other was Berkeley in Boston. And then I had a dorm band in five town-
Wyclef Jean: And you know, literally if we hit the lawn I kid you not man, in like less than five minutes its 3000 people on the lawn. The best talent, like the raw talent, there's like 50% of it, which curates through these universities and these last years of high school, and I'm like reality shows sometimes kills that, because it almost makes it look like there's only one way to find talent now. We're the four judges. We're gonna tell you what's dope. I'm like are you kidding me. Then I wouldn't be discovered, you know what I mean?
So the idea of this tape is to leave one of the songs on the mixtape we would leave open wit' a 12 bar, and the 12 bar will go out to a community. Some of these schools will physically be showing up too. But once you know where the site is at in this community, if you play guitar, play guitar on these twelve bars. If you play saxophone if you do poetry ... I don't want no one to feel like, "Oh, we're subject to have to rap on this track, or have to sing on this track."
Dude, I don't know what kinda talent I'm gonna find, so when that part of the record comes in with the 12 bars we probably will break the entire thing down, maybe just leave it with a snare on the rhythm, and maybe a four-chord pattern.
Wyclef Jean: So the talent that we looking for is raw talent. And raw talent means the no hype. You might have three views, and you the fuckin' next Adele. Who knows that? You know what I mean?
Dustin: Well that leads me to my next question. Are you looking for somebody with charisma or are you just looking for that straight talent like, they're good at what they do? Not necessarily that they're good at being who they are?
Wyclef Jean: Well, to make the mixtape, right, because the mixtape. You heard the first single.
Wyclef Jean: So, Kofi is on the mix. You heard Kofi?
Jeff: Yeah, awesome.
Wyclef Jean: Okay. And then the little sprinkle vocalist that you hearing on there is a girl by the name of Mora Mack.
Wyclef Jean: Right? We just sprinkling her through it, and you like, okay who is this. Now we gonna actually have her on the tape.
Wyclef Jean: We discovered her from USC.
Wyclef Jean: Yeah, right?
Wyclef Jean: Cause I went out there on this same program cause we had already started the battle of the stages, and she grabbed the guitar, and she just murdered the place in half.
Wyclef Jean: So, once again, she took over the tape, meaning like at the end of the day when I saw that talent it was a 360. As a producer, as a conductor who've worked with the likes of Whitney Houston, or Lauryn, or Beyonce, everybody at a young age, I look for the "it" factor.
Wyclef Jean: It's just an "it", right so, when you see Kofi on stage tonight I don't have to hype it to you. Like when he get off you gonna be like, "Who the hell is that?" And then there's some kids that are different that might be, "You know what, I'm too shy. Maybe I wanna be on the tape, but I just wanna get a song off". That's okay. Take your twelve bars and post it online.
Wyclef Jean: And then, when we come back to the cities now, we gonna have an official college tour. A straight up Roger Dangerfield, Wyclef Goes Back To School-
Jeff: That's so awesome.
Wyclef Jean: Dorm like-
Wyclef Jean: In the fall we gotta do something crazy, crazy in the fall. Ya' know what I mean, and all of the talent that's on the mixtape will be the openers, and including some talent that we might find that didn't make the mixtape, but in the cities that we're going to are already incredible. You know?
Jeff: Wow!! So you're gonna not only come out with a mixtape, but you're gonna tour on that material?
Wyclef Jean: Man, Wyclef Goes Back To School Tour in the fall. We gon' hit the campus man.
Jeff: Man you never quit.
Dustin: That's awesome!
Jeff: That's just the best! Like that's what great about you man, is like you just-
Wyclef Jean: That's the vibe of the tape though, that's gonna be ... Cause I have to make a mixtape and it has to be different. The next one. So I was like "Yo, what if we did it like this?" And then actually made it effective to the point where we actually toured it. You know. Cause whatever community we create online, past this, it could now live in a new space where artists can actually share music, and do music, and different things, and the shit is not a reality show. It's created totally different. You know.
Dustin: Yeah, it sounds like it's a breath of fresh air-
Dustin: After all this America's Got Talent, and all this ridiculous stuff that's out there now we're actually looking for talented people in places where they're being the most educated, with the campuses.
Wyclef Jean: And then like I said, look, I just said there's different ways to do it right? To me, a reality show, you probably only gonna get 2% of realness, barely that. But I'm like where's the 98% of ... there's probably talent on the subway nobody's searching for that's incredible talent. You got talents in these universities, these kids sitting all around, and I'm just like, we need a new community-
Wyclef Jean: To activate something, and you know the tour is a living testament to that. You know what I mean at the end of the day, every night is a summer jam for me. So whether it's 10,000 people I'm playing in front of... I actually like these rooms cause I learned this style form Prince.
Wyclef Jean: So Prince who I got a chance to jam with, one night Prince is like, "You don't understand. You'll always be able to do the arenas. Throughout your career you gonna always have arena music at times, but to test your pulse, if you can't kill the small room-
Wyclef Jean: Then you've lost it". And then now you're here and you're playing so we got a bunch of bands. So, it's almost like this is really what it's about. Now, who knows? One of these bands could be like the next Hendrix or Beatles. No one knows-
Wyclef Jean: This ... me showing up in the town and being who I am it allows a whole nother eye on social media to be like, "What the hell is going on in this town?"
Wyclef Jean: Yeah.
Jeff: Well the last time we talked with you, one of the things that stuck with me is you said, "Music is survival. Music is something that's ingrained in you because you need it to survive," is basically how you put it.
Wyclef Jean: Yeah man.
Jeff: And, I feel like the landscape of music, especially in our nation, it's constantly getting cut in schools, it's constantly getting downtrodden by reality television. The 2% or the not even 2% of the talent that you're seeing. Do you think that more artists should go this route? What do you think can be done to help music? The state of music?
Wyclef Jean: I think this is a great route, because this route can create a community. I mean look. It's only like I think two days the single Soc Hop Fet is already number 34 on i-tunes, and it's featuring Mora Mack, that nobody fucking knows yet-
Wyclef Jean: Maybe she has five years on YouTube. And I guarantee you when she picks up her guitar and sings a song by herself the world is gon' get shook.
So once again, if we creating models that's working, everyone will follow. I just think the new model is the reverse of what they doing in the reality shows. I think, the thing is an artist from my era, you have to be willing to put in the work. That's a different thing because, you can't just be willing like, "Okay I'm putting out an album", and you showing up at the super bowl, and my daughter is like, "Who is this person with Taylor Swift?" You know, you can't be doing that?
At the end of the day the work, being back on the road,... grabbing that roots. Saying, okay this is how it started for you. This is the only way you could curate magic, you know what I mean?
Dustin: And I feel like the most talented people, like the real savants are not gonna be the people that you're gonna find on reality television shows. They're gonna be shying away from that circus show. And I think what you're doing's really gonna dig out some really interesting individuals and I'm very excited to see all of this.
Wyclef Jean: I'm very excited too. What I'm excited about is Heads Music creating a new version of a Myspace now. But not being Myspace where, cuz remember with Myspace we all thought that the celebrities was gonna show up, and actually be like okay rate your music and all of that, and we actually doing that real time. So I wanna see a new online community with no fake shit where it's just based on the talent.
I think we're already proving it right here, because once again no one knows who the hell Mora Mack is. No one probably even knows what the hell she looks like yet. They're like what the hell is going on, and then all of a sudden, Oh, we happen to be at USC, we did something live, and here's a student. You know what I mean.
Jeff: That's so cool. Do you have ... I noticed that yesterday you were saying that you were in Boston and you went to UMASS, and played with the students there-
Wyclef Jean: Yeah, UMASS was incredible!
Jeff: The schools that you're going to, do you have them all mapped out? Like looking for these kids or-
Wyclef Jean: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: -you kinda doing it on this tour?
Wyclef Jean: Nah, there's a coordinator, we've mapped it out because of the tour of what's going on. You know what I mean? Speaking of UMASS, this is a student that went to UMASS right there, Rachel. Right?
Dustin: What up?
Wyclef Jean: So Rachel went to UMASS and yesterday she sang in the battle of the thing
Jeff: Oh, that's awesome.
Wyclef Jean: And guess what? She gon' be on the mix tape.
Wyclef Jean: So, it's like you just, ya know what I mean. Like it's crazy stuff that's going on but for me this how the Fugees got discovered. Like Wu-Tang said it the best man. Who's your A&R man?
Wyclef Jean: Like you know what I mean, at the end of the day we was from an era where you know it's like, okay even if you say we not dope, we gon' prove to y'all we dope, but we had an avenue to do that. The artists today that are struggling through these universities, they don't have that avenue. So, it's up to us to open that flood gate. You know what I mean?
Jeff: Yeah. And that brings me back to that question I was asking you earlier. Because you're on the road so much. Because you're doing this incredible stuff not only touring on a record but putting together a mixtape, it's just unfathomable stuff, when do you have time to write.
Dustin: Yeah, where do you find the time? That's crazy.
Jeff: Where do you find that time?
Wyclef Jean: Okay now there's a few things you have to understand in history. Alexander the Great. At what age did he conquer the world?
Jeff: Real young.
Wyclef Jean: That's right.
Wyclef Jean: So at the end of the day, 24 hours in the day ... that's my engineer, he like this mutha'fucker Wyclef never sleep, you'll talking to the wrong ... he's a vampire. But, at the end of the day I think that you map it out where you have a bulk of a day where, what's the passion and what's the goal? Cause at the end of the day if you're doing what you love you barely can sleep right, because when you're sleeping, I'm blowing him up on his phone knowing he's sleeping, then when he wake up I'm like "YO! This the new concept this is how we doing it".
Because its from the same space like Clive Davis.
Wyclef Jean: There was a time there's a passion, you know. Like Jimmy Iovine, when he was an engineer. There's just that crazy passion that you just have and you always thinking, "What's the next thing that I wanna do? What's the next thing?"
So for me when I'm looking at it, curating talent has always been my greatest passion. Discovering who the next thing is. Everyone is obsessed with something.
Wyclef Jean: And mines, I'm always like, "Yo, where's the next thing?" You know what I mean?
Jeff: That's so refreshing. It really is. Speaking back on the mixtape, with this single which is excellent again by the way-
Wyclef Jean: Thank you. Thank you.
Jeff: Being a mixtape, is it going to be an eclectic mix of stuff or is it going to be kind of in the same vein as this single?
Wyclef Jean: Oh, no because we're eclectic people right?
Jeff: Right, exactly.
Wyclef Jean: So at the end of the day it might be a dude who's just singing blue grass or something and you know, he's wailing on the guitar, and he's probably a different version of John Mayer, which I think I found at her school already, right?
Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-
Wyclef Jean: Because the good thing is now, when you bring these people into what we call, ... what we call it? The factory right? Cause the factory's our university. That's where all my little producers is at. So the factory. Our gang is called the X-men. I'm the professor. That's Wolverine. So we got a crazy gang.
So the thing is, now when these people come to the factory, we curate the talent, this might be a dude singing bluegrass and this bluegrass might just create a vibe. Now the thing is, we gon' show up in your dorm. With the computers, with the energy, and see what comes out of that.
Wyclef Jean: So at the end of the day the foundation of what we do has a big backbone to Hip Hop because that's our DNA. Like we can't help that.
Wyclef Jean: We're hip-hoppers, you know. He from Africa, I'm from Haiti. That Caribbean thing you always gonna feel that movement in the music but once again, The Police, Sting, ... I was just wit him in Jamaica. You know, at the Shaggy benefit. We was jammin' together. You know, I'm jammin' with the edge over I Europe. So, it's like at the end of the day, I'm a straight up, they call me like a Thug Hippie. So for me I look for, I don't say this is Folk music, this is Reggae, this is Hip-Hop. I don't know what that is. I just know that there's music we feel cause. The same place that I got my Police cassette "Synchronicity"-
Wyclef Jean: I have a plaque next to it. A piece of vinyl that says Mobb Deep. So-
Wyclef Jean: It's like, that's the era that we in and we've always been ... I was like, "Yo. You know there's kids in the projects that listen to Pink Floyd'. Dude's like, "Yo. What The Wall?"
Yeah, like we dere. We listened to Nirvana, but it's sort of like that side of it wasn't exposed. We were the nerds. How da' fuck you think we're able to produce? How da hell you think we was able to produce all of that shit?
Wyclef Jean: If I wasn't listening to The Wall, how would I be able to do The Score? It'd be impossible.
Dustin: So, Thug Hippie just kinda sounds like you're really open-minded. Were you always this way?
Wyclef Jean: Okay. So the way that you can see an artist is through its original DNA. So let's go back. Let's go back wit' Wyclef, 1996-1997.
Dustin: Love to.
Wyclef Jean: 1997 the video's called Gone Till November.
Wyclef Jean: The guy who's sitting in the chair is who? Bob Dylan.
Wyclef Jean: You know what I mean. So I've always been a musician right? And I've always said I'm a Hip-Hop musician. Dude's like what does that mean?
I says Hip Hop is the culture of where we from. We're musicians! And I said, a Hip Hop is the most eclectic musician that you will find because we're just open minded. We know how to take... there's records that I've done where I've took Kenny Rodgers Gambler, and fused it with Pharaoh Monch and people thought I was insane. And now that's the shit that everyone's doing. Everyone's trying to find what's the fusion. So when you hear like, Kendrick Lamar fusing with this person, all of those kind of fusions I was doing them like in the 90's.
Wyclef Jean: So for me, I don't know if the word is called open minded, but for me the word is called, I'm a lover of true music. So I'm always searching. Like, whether if it's Rock, whether if it's coming from Brasil, whether it's parts of Africa, I'm always like, Yo! I mean the Beatles did that a lot.
Wyclef Jean: That's really the blue print for me. Beatles, Freddy Mercury, cause the more you search for, the greater your craft can be. So we're hoping... when I look at this mix tape in my brain, its like a Bach piece. That's how I see it. Where every song is just craft and like an incredible space, and it rolls out into each other. You know what I mean?
Jeff: That's crazy. That's awesome! So in the fall, you're gonna tour on this mixtape?
Wyclef Jean: Yeah, the mixtape gon' drop in the Fall. Right before kids go back to school. It's gon' be like a back to school vibe.
Dustin: Perfect timing.
Jeff: And then the tour is literally going to be on college campuses?
Wyclef Jean: Has to be.
Wyclef Jean: It's called Rodneyr ... you know like the whole Rodney Dangerfield Back to School vibe. You know what I mean?
Jeff: That's exciting. Do you know how, I'm sure you're still working on all the details and everything, do you know how much of a tour it's gonna be? Is it gonna be as big as Carnival?
Wyclef Jean: We plan to make it like Carnival. We plan to do a straight heavy run. We plan to do a fall run where it becomes like a cult vibe. You know where people's like, Yo! This shit man, when is it gonna happen next year, ya know?
Wyclef Jean: And then I wanna see who's the next kid that get inspired that does the next tape next year? And then it becomes-
Dustin: So you plan to keep on doing this?
Wyclef Jean: Yeah, this should be a movement. I plan to start it and I want the youth to get inspired and be like okay, Uncle Clef did Wyclef Go Back to School. Uncle Clef, next year we want to do the same thing but we have the mixtape. We gonna curate the talent. Right?
Because, I good book is when I read it then I pass it on to you. And you read it. Pass it on to him. That's what it's about.
Jeff: Same thing with a mixtape. I mean that was the whole mix tape genre. You getmixtapeape and immediately, oh I like this so much, I'm either gonna copy it or I'm just gonna give it to you.
Wyclef Jean: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. That's the vibe.
Dustin: Yeah, that's so cool.
I wanted to ask you too, because you touched on it really quickly, this thing that Head's Music you were talking about with this new Myspace idea. Can we talk a little bit about that?
Wyclef Jean: Yeah. Well what I'm doing is basically Head space is, ... Head's Music.
Wyclef Jean: Oh you heard what I said? I said Head Space.
Dustin: Head Space, uh-oh
Wyclef Jean: That's crazy yeah. I like that.
Dustin: Hashtag: copyright.
Wyclef Jean: Copyright Asap!
So what's going on is, so much traffic is coming back to Head's Music.
Wyclef Jean: All independent female label.
Wyclef Jean: And, I've just been, I'm always thinking ahead. Every time I think a few minutes some body else do the idea. And I'm like all of this stuff that's being curated, the idea is to send it back to Head's Music within a community. And within this community we could just keep sharing music and ideas and keep it going right?
And it really is a tool which gets plugged up to either to your Facebook or your Instagram. Cause the best application is to plug into another application, right?
Wyclef Jean: So not in the sense of trying to reinvent the wheel. But what is an app? What is a tool that you could come up with to galvanize people where they know okay, this shit ain't bullshit. We actually can go in here, put music in here. Clef'll hear it. Clef can actually play it for some of his friends, and like what happens if we can generate a tour, you know what I mean?
And Fuck it, is this tour the forgotten ones or the ones were ignored. Somewhere, you playing all of this, 10,000 people showing up and the labels are like, "Well how come we missed this?" Y'all missed this cause y'all not paying attention to it. You know what I mean. So the idea is to use technology and live show together to sort of like bring something that people ain't paying attention to.
Dustin: Well sometimes it takes thinking outside that box to come up with successful technology, for example, the taxi cab company didn't think of Uber. The Hotel Company didn't think of Air B&B. And now, it sounds like there's a spot for music to have this. We're looking past our streaming sites. We're looking for technology to take over the work that the label was doing because it can.
Wyclef Jean: Yeah. Yeah.
Dustin: And that's what this sounds like to me. Which is awesome!
Wyclef Jean: Well, we very excited about it, you know I'm saying. We definitely gonna keep developing or whatever, you know what I'm saying. And if y'all wanna keep talking about it, y'all give the number to Rachel and we keep going because,
Wyclef Jean: like I said this is something like proof of concept, meaning whatever is going on is naturally working and how do we keep it going? And even tonight. It's another example. We rockin' here. It's like battle of the fucking bands tonight.
Wyclef Jean: All of these... drummer, setting up a stage in front of the drummer. But yet, Wyclef is still here. It's like, yeah and Clef is like just a regular local boy you know like who'll jump on a guitar. So that energy. We need to get back to that.
Jeff: God that's so refreshing. I can't thank you enough for taking time to talk to us.
Wyclef Jean: You already know. Saca Fet!
Jeff: Saca Fet. Exactly. Exactly.
Wyclef Jean: What's Good?!
Jeff: That single's out now. Can't wait for mix tape, So excited about Carnival.
Wyclef Jean: You already know.
Jeff: It was great to have you on again. You are officially the first guest we've had on for the second time.
Wyclef Jean: That's right baby! And thank you. And y'all the mans. You already know.
Jeff: Thank you
Dustin: Thank you
Wyclef Jean: Love. Respect Fam. Always.