Entertainment Music

Wyclef Jean is the Rapper-in-Chief

By Jane Stevenson, Postmedia Network

Legendary rapper Wyclef Jean has plenty to say to our Jane Stevenson. GETTY

Legendary rapper Wyclef Jean has plenty to say to our Jane Stevenson. GETTY

Wyclef Jean of The Fugees - short for Refugees - is feeling positively presidential on his new EP J'ouvret, which translates to "the night before the carnival."

Jean, who had an unsuccessful 2010 run for Haitian president, has updated his 2004 solo single, President, to If I Was President 2016, for J'ouvret.

There's also an accompanying Funny or Die Video featuring him playing an angry Donald Trump, a weed-smoking Hillary Clinton and a napping Bernie Sanders.

So how does he think Trump is doing in his first month in the Oval Office? "We're subject to dangerous times," said Jean, a Haitian native whose family moved to Brooklyn, then Newark, N.J., when he was nine.

"It's a big anarchy. Internal fighting. And you can see people are marching for the refugee ban situation. Now once again, I do believe in giving the man 100 days. But giving him 100 days doesn't mean we don't say what's wrong and we don't protest."

24 Hours caught up with Wyclef Jean down the line from his Jersey home that he shares with his wife and their 11-year-old daughter.

Does the news ever get you down? I'm always hopeful. I'm in America. And I'm in the land of the free. I'm in the suburbs. I don't have to worry about the KKK burning crosses. My daughter goes to school. She's as safe as she's going to be for now. So I am hopeful. The planes are running. The airplanes are flying. And the stock market is not going down. The crazier this dude gets, the higher the stock market gets. What's going on?

You dropped out of your own Haitian presidential run because of the five-year residency requirement - even though you had a diplomatic passport at the time as an ambassador-at-large. Any regrets? I could have [gone] to court. I could have contested it. You know millions of kids would have hit the streets and been fighting for me. A lot of blood would have been shed. I made myself a promise that I wasn't going to let my ego take over that situation because it was never about me. It was about public service.

How's Haiti doing in the present day? The country is still at a Band-Aid stage because before the [2010] earthquake 80% of the country was living on less than a dollar a day. So imagine when that hit happened what happened. For Haiti to move forward, it's going to take strengthening the private sector, different corporations really coming in and not just having corporate interests, but with some social entrepreneurship responsibility.

Why release an EP before this June's The Carnival III (which follows 1997's The Carnival and 2007's The Carnival II)? There had to be a reintroduction to the millennials and, at the same time, for the older fans, that haven't really heard me in the commercial space in like seven years. So the EP is the trailer I guess for what will be The Carnival.

I also saw the video for your J'ouvret single, I Swear, featuring Young Thug who has apparently also written a song about you appropriately called Wyclef Jean with a very entertaining video. Do you approve? It started because he was trying to get in touch with me because he was doing a mixtape about five musicians that he idolized. So it was me, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz and others. He wanted me to be on a record that he called Kanye West. And his whole concept and theory was: 'Wyclef, even if you've never met me, when you heard Wyclef Jean, you would at least know that you inspired me.'

So a young rapper looking up to his predecessors? Thug is like 25, you feel me? So what happens is when he does that, it triggers a whole other curiosity for a whole other group of kids that necessarily weren't there for [The Fugees mega-selling 1996 second album] The Score. So thank God for these young kids who definitely keep us reinventing ourselves.

Will you go on tour for The Carnival III? Definitely. I'm coming to Canada. Look out.

What is the status of The Fugees with you, Lauryn Hill and Pras Michel? I don't think it's over. I think the possibility is always there, you know what I mean? Like my line is always, 'Never say never.' The possibilities are endless. I'm very active now in this commercial space. I do not plan to stop. Lauryn, she's back, she's actively touring. I'm sure something is definitely going to spark somewhere.

Is it up to you to organize a reunion? I say that I'm the only Fugee people can get to, to ask questions. My vibe is I'm beyond interested at any time but you know how people be like, 'it takes two to tango?' Well, in this situation, it takes three to tango.