Thursday Interview

Thursday Interview

Wyclef Jean

12mid, Gatsby

Wyclef Jean remembers hearing Swedish DJ Avicii's electronic hijacking of Aloe Blacc's "Wake Me Up" for the first time on the road in Europe.

"Originally, I'm like a jazz major, like in high school I studied a lot of jazz. I love bluegrass and everything," admits the rapper from his cell phone, voice still husky with sleep. "So, the minute I heard those sonics, I was like, 'Yo, this sounds like The Carnival [Jean's 1997 solo debut]. Who's mashing up the styles like that and making it just sound perfect? I got to get with Tim [Bergling – Avicii].'"

"I remember when I produced 'Killing Me Softly' in the Fugees. There were definitely people who knew the original that said, 'You just butchered the song!'" he continues. "They were so used to how they heard it. So I fully understand when fans of music say, 'Hold up, what the fuck is this?'

"I get it, but as a producer, I have two heads on how I listen to music."

November's single "Divine Sorrow," from the upcoming Clefication, marks Jean's first studio LP in seven years. That hiatus included an unsuccessful bid at the presidency of his native Haiti in 2010.

"I remember when I cut off my dreads," says the MC. "That's sort of what the song reminds me of."

From the first meeting, the connection between the two producers was instantaneous.

"In two days, we recorded 20 songs," laughs Jean. "It's real simple. Either the vibe is there, or the vibe is not. When the vibe is there the music just flows like water.

"When I came back, the first record I wanted y'all to hear, the reason why I loved 'Divine Sorrow,' is that it sounds just like a hymn to me. Coming from my daddy's church, it was my way of thanking the fire, of thanking sorrow."

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Wyclef Jean, SXSW Music 2015

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