WYCLEF JEAN with Singapore Sling , Ana Popovic , Tracy Nelson/Angela Strehli , Marcia Ball , Keb' Mo' and Kyprios as part of Toronto Bluesfest, cancelled. Full refunds at point of purchase.
I have to apologize to Wyclef Jean in advance. It's bad enough that my phone call to his New York City crib has cut his 5-mile treadmill jaunt short. Worse, I'm in the midst of asking him the most predictable fucking question I can muster. But the cringe muscles in my face relax when he answers consolingly. "Man, everyone be askin' me about a Fugees reunion," he says. "But I could never be sick of talking about something I created out of my basement. And to hear people still ask about the Fugees, that's the most mind-boggling thing. Bands come, bands go, people don't give a fuck, but with the Fugees, there's always demand.
"You gotta respect us in one sense, because any other group would be, like, -Yo, let's go in the studio and just knock out an album and get paid.' With us, money hasn't been the issue - there has to be some kind of spiritual grounding. We believe music is healing, and a Fugees album can actually help change the world. But it has to be done with pure intentions. So me and Lauryn Hill, we do talk sometimes. I feel 75 per cent sure there will be another Fugees album."
Till then, Wyclef's cup runneth over with other shit to do. For the last while, he's been in the lab with pad and pen gettin' not one, but two record labels off the ground.
There's Clef Records, an "urban" imprint that'll drop albums by NYC newbies Trini Don ("the Web sites are already calling her the female Biggie, but she weighs like a buck five," he says excitedly) and 3 on 3, sons of former Harlem Globetrotter Clarence "Mugsy" Leggett, not to mention Wyclef's sixth LP, Silent But Deadly, sometime next year.
Wyclef's fifth album, Welcome To Haiti: Creole 101, is dropping on the 27th of this month on his other new label, the internationally distributed Sak Pasé.
"I'm real excited about that album. The only English song on it is called If I Was President. The album is a continuation of my first album, The Carnival. It's to celebrate the 200 years of independence of my country."
Wyclef has always been a militant advocate of his native Haiti's cause, and throughout his music - wait, hold the phone a minute, only one English song?
Rocking an advance of the record confirms the fact. It's a plucky, bounce-centric compas and zouk affair, with rap stabs and Caribbean dashes, a cover of La Bamba and occasional gems thrown down by Buju Banton and Foxy Brown. And while it makes my ass gyrate and grind against things involuntarily, I need my Creole-English/English-Creole dictionary to understand it. Wasn't 'Clef wary of alienating his remaining fans?
"That's why I called it Creole 101," he says. "It's like schooling. It was even schooling for me, because I wanted to write the whole thing by myself. Words I didn't know how to say in Creole I was asking my mom, and I actually felt like I was in school. I think all the real Wyclef fans, they know Wyclef is very twisted, so, they can expect some shit."
And remember, Wyclef is also eternally eclectic. This record is just one fragment of his grand design.
"I'm an all-arounder," he coins. "If I get tired of one thing, I can flip and do another. The most important thing in my career is to leave a musical stamp with a message and to try to ignite people."