Haitian rapper, musician and actor Wyclef Jean was born on October 17, 1969 in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. Jean emigrated to the United States with his family where, after living in Brooklyn, New York, they settled in East Orange and Newark, New Jersey. He began to make music as a child and has cited reggae artist Bigga Haitian as one of his early influences, as well as neighborhood heroes MC Tiger Paw Raw and producer Lobster v. Crab. His mother recognized his musical talent and bought him a guitar when he was in his teens; he played music to earn respect. Jean graduated from Vailsburg High School, Newark, New Jersey, briefly attended Eastern Nazarene College and finished one semester at Five Towns College in New York Jean has been a resident of Saddle River, South Orange, and North Caldwell, New Jersey. In 2009, Jean enrolled in the Berklee College of Music.
Jean and other musicians formed a group in the 1980s under the name Tranzlator Crew. After they signed with Ruffhouse Records and Columbia Records in 1993, they renamed their group as Fugees – an abbreviation of “refugees”, and also a reference to Haitian immigrantion. The group’s debut album, Blunted on Reality, was released in 1994. It achieved limited commercial success, peaking at number 62 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album peaked at number 122 on the UK Albums Chart in 1997, and it was certified gold by the Syndicat National de l’Édition Phonographique. Blunted on Reality spawned three singles: “Boof Baf”, “Nappy Heads” and “Vocab.” “Nappy Heads” was the Fugees’ first single to be ranked on the US Billboard Hot 100, charting at number 49.
In 1996, the Fugees released their second album, titled The Score. The album achieved significant commercial success in the United States, topping the US Billboard 200. It was later certified as six-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It performed well in several overseas nations, topping the Austrian, Canadian, French, German and Swiss albums charts, while also peaking at number two in Sweden and the United Kingdom. Four commercially successful singles were released from The Score; “Fu-Gee-La”, the first single from the album, peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the RIAA and by the Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI). The other three singles – “Killing Me Softly”, “Ready or Not” and “No Woman, No Cry” – did not appear on the Billboard Hot 100 as they were not released for commercial sale, making them ineligible to appear on the chart,although they all received sufficient airplay to appear on the Hot 100 Airplay and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts. “Killing Me Softly”, a cover of the Roberta Flack song “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, performed strongly in other territories, topping the singles charts in Australia, Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom, among several others.
“Ready or Not” peaked at number one in the UK and at number three in Sweden. “No Woman, No Cry” – a cover of the Bob Marley & The Wailers song of the same name – topped the singles chart in New Zealand. Fugees collaborated with singer Bounty Killer on the single “Hip-Hopera” and recorded the single “Rumble in the Jungle” for the soundtrack to the film When We Were Kings in 1997: although they have not released any studio albums since The Score, a compilation album, Greatest Hits, was released in 2003, and spawned the single “Take It Easy”.
Jean began a solo career with 1997’s Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival Featuring the Refugee All-Stars (generally called The Carnival). The album’s guests included Lauryn Hill and Pras along with Jean’s siblings’ group Melky Sedeck; the I Threes (back-up vocals for Bob Marley); The Neville Brothers and Celia Cruz. The album included the songs: “We Trying to Stay Alive” (adapted from the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”) and “Gone Till November (recorded with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra). Jean’s second solo album The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book was released in2000 with guests including Youssou N’Dour; Earth, Wind & Fire; Kenny Rogers; The Rock; and Mary J. Blige and was nominated for Best Hip-Hop Act at the 2000 MTV Europe Music Awards. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Jean participated in the benefit concert America: A Tribute to Heroes contributing a cover of the Bob Marley song “Redemption Song”. His third album, Masquerade, was released in 2002. His fourth album, The Preacher’s Son, was released in 2003 as the follow-up to his first solo album, The Carnival. In 2004, he released his fifth album, Sak Pasé Presents: Welcome to Haïti (Creole 101)
He also sang on the album Mozaik Kreyòl on the song “Secret Lover”. Then he covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Fortunate Son” for the soundtrack of the 2004 film remake of The Manchurian Candidate and wrote the song “Million Voices” for the film Hotel Rwanda. Jean also produced and wrote songs for the soundtrack to Jonathan Demme’s 2003 documentary The Agronomist, about the Haitian activist and radio personality Jean Dominique. With Jerry ‘Wonder’ Duplessis, Jean also composed the score of the documentary Ghosts of Cité Soleil, He helped produce the film and he appears briefly onscreen speaking by telephone in 2004 to a “chimere” gang-leader and aspiring rapper, Winston “2Pac” Jean. In 2006, Jean was featured in Shakira’s smash hit Hips Don’t Lie.
In 2007 he was featured in Eros Ramazzotti’s song L’Aurora from the album e² and scored the Angelina Jolie documentary A Place in Time. In 2007 Jean released an album with T.I., who also collaborated with Jean on the songs “You Know What it is” and “My Swag” on T.I.’s 2007 album, T.I. vs. T.I.P. Recently, Wyclef released a new song called “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)” featuring Lil Wayne, Niia and Akon, which references the song “C.R.E.A.M.” by the Wu-Tang Clan. The album features a single, “Fast Car”, whose video was made with the assistance of video game Burnout Paradise. Wyclef Jean was also featured in a mix version of the Cartel song “Wasted”
In 2008, Wyclef Jean released an upbeat single ‘Let Me Touch Your Button’ featuring will.i.am (of The Black Eyed Peas) and a song with Serj Tankian called “Riot”. In 2009, he was featured on the song “Spanish Fly” with Ludacris and Bachata group Aventura included on Aventura’s album The Last. Wyclef Jean released his solo album wyclefjean featuring the song “Seventeen” in collaboration with Lil Wayne. In 2009, Wyclef unveiled his video “Haitian Slumdog Millionaire” featuring Haitian artist Imposs. Making a guest appearance in the video was New York City entrepreneur and philanthropist Ali Naqvi. Wyclef Jean’s EP named From the Hut, to the Projects, to the Mansion was also released in 2009. It includes 17 tracks, featuring Cyndi Lauper, Timbaland, Lil’ Kim and the track titled “Suicide Love”featuring rapper Eve. Wyclef Jean’s self-entitled studio album features the track “Hold On”, Featuring dancehall artist Mavada. In May 2014, a Wyclef video, “April Showers”, was banned from YouTube after Cathy Scott, author of The Killing of Tupac Shakur, lodged a copyright infringement complaint with YouTube claiming an image in the video was similar to an autopsy photo released in her book. YouTube banned the video. Wyclef Jean worked with Avicii on a single titled “Divine Sorrow” from his album Clefication and In 2015, Wyclef collaborated again with Avicii on a song called “Can’t Catch Me” on the DJ/producer’s album Stories, which also featured Matisyahu. This marks the third collaboration with Avicii and Wyclef Jean, following “Dar Um Jeito (We Will Find A Way)” and “Divine Sorrow”. Jean also appeared as a featured vocalist in The Knocks’ 2016 single “Kiss The Sky”, and also featured on the Young Thug songs “Kanye West”, and “I Swear.” from the rapper’s mixtape Jeffery,
Wyclef wrote an autobiography entitled Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story with the help of journalist Anthony Bozza, published in September 2012. In 2016, Wyclef released his first song in two years, which gave hints to a new album release. On June 17, he released a new song called Hendrix and later released a short film featuring Michael K. Williams. To promote his EP, he did a concert at Terminal 5. On October 14, 2016 Wyclef released an election song called “If I Was President 2016” that would be featured on his J’ouvert EP. On November 1, 2016 he released a song that he had collaborated on with Young Thug. The song was called “I Swear,” which is also featured on his EP. Wyclef also collaborated on Young Thug’s Jeffery Mixtape, and was featured on Thug’s song “Kanye West. Young Thug also had a song named “Wyclef Jean” that was named after him because he was such a big influence.
In January of 2017, Wyclef announced that his J’ouvert EP would be released on February 3, 2017. On February 2, 2017, Wyclef released his new single “Ne Me Quitte Pas”, which was featured on his J’ouvert Deluxe EP. The EP was released and charted at 117 on the Billboard 200,and 50 on the Canadian Hot Album. Four more singles were released from the album, “Life Matters”, “The Ring,” “Holding onto the Edge” and “Little Things” On June 9, Wyclef announced on his Instagram that Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee would become available to pre-order on June 22, 2017. You can now pre-order his 12 track album on itunes.
In 2001, Jean established “Yéle Haiti” a charitable organization known legally as the Wyclef Jean Foundation and incorporated in Illinois. Following 2004’s Hurricane Jeanne, it provided scholarships to 3,600 children in Gonaïves, Haiti. It continued to provide scholarships, school funding, meals and other charitable benefits to citizens of Haiti in the following years. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the foundation became prominent in raising funds for disaster relief. According to Jean, Yéle raised over $1 million in 24 hours over Twitter Jean took part in an MTV donation drive and other publicized fundraising, such as the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon, which he organized with actor and producer George Clooney. The Yéle charity donated funds to orphanages, street cleaning crews, hospitals and medical clinics and organized food service to provide hot meals to refugees and victims of the catastrophe. However By February 2010, questions were reported about the history and management of the Yéle charity. The New York Times reported that it had failed to file tax returns for several years. The former executive director, Sanjay Rawal, questioned the charity’s ability to handle large projects and criticized its lack of financial controls.
In 2010 Wyclef Jean ran as a candidate for the Viv Ansanm (Live Together) political party and formally filed papers as a candidate for the 2010 Haitian presidential election and retired as chairman of Yéle Haiti. However He was turned down by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council because he did not meet the constitutional residency requirement of having lived in Haiti for five years at that time. In 2012 wyclef Jean was chosen to perform Along with Carlos Santana, Avicii and Alexandre Pires, at the closing ceremony at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Their single, “Dar Um Jeito” (“We Will Find a Way”), the official World Cup anthem, was released on April 29, 2014