DOVER, Del. (AP) — Wyclef Jean had a song named in his honor and worked with producers on his new album who were just kids when he released his debut solo album, “The Carnival.”
At 47, tributes from today’s hip-hop stars and a surge of young producers had Jean deciding to call it a day on “The Carnival” saga. “Carnival III: The Rise and Fall of a Refugee,” is the last one under that banner.
“This is the trilogy. This is it,” Jean said.
Jean’s first full-length album in eight years was released Sept. 12 by Legacy Recording, and coincides with the 20-year anniversary celebration of the Grammy winning “Carnival.” Jean would collaborate with Santana, cover Bob Marley and snagged a cameo from Bob Dylan over the years, a thrill for him to work with and honor some of his musical heroes. These days, hip-hop stars pay homage simply by naming a song after The Fugees co-founder.
“When I first heard the record (I heard) new music, Wyclef Jean. I was like, this is not my song,” Jean said, laughing. “It was like, no the song’s named after you.”
Young Thug indeed named a song “Wyclef Jean” that included the line, “Okay, my money way longer than a NASCAR race.”
Jean, a three-time Grammy winner, wore a NASCAR jacket Sunday inside a motorhome for an interview with The Associated Press at Dover International Speedway. Jean, a NASCAR fan who is friends with former driver Brian Vickers, gave the command for drivers to start their engines.
It was a short drive to the Delaware track for Jean. He still lives in New Jersey, where his family moved from Haiti when he was just a young child.
“I feel like the Haitian Bruce Springsteen,” Jean said.
In an interview with the AP, Jean, talked his future, The Fugees, protests and “Carnival III,” shortly before he bellowed to the crowd it was time to start the NASCAR race.
AP: What does the new album mean to you?
Jean: “The best way to explain this album is, it seems like a tastemakers album right now. The buzz of it is building internally and in the underground. That’s a beautiful thing. It’s been like nine years, I think, since the last one. I think the theme of the entire album is, I call it global gumbo. The playlist is a playlist of unity and of culture. We could go from hip hop to gospel to salsa. I guess it’s the thing that reminds us of unification through music. That’s how I know that an album will be called Carnival and this will be the final chapter.”
AP: The last one? Is there more music ahead?
Jean: “There was an album done before Carnival which is still not finished. That album was the winter of Stockholm when I got back from Haiti. Me and Avicii got together and the energy was so strong that we ended up doing 20, 25 songs. It’s not finished yet. We were just talking about it on the phone the other day before he went to Burning Man. He was like, ‘Yo, it would be a shame for the world not to hear this.’ I was like, ‘Yo, they’re going to hear it. We’ve got to figure it out.’ As we move to the future, there are like two albums past this Carnival.”
AP: What does mean to be held in such reverence by today’s generation of hip-hop stars?
Jean: “This album celebrates the younger producers like Supah Mario, the Knocks, the Wavy Gang. It’s sort of the generation movement of this album. When I worked with Santana, you could feel that Wyclef/Fugee generation and the Santana generation merging into one things.”
AP: You worked with your musical heroes. What does it mean after 25 years to be in demand by the new generation?
Jean: “The kids are making records about you. Even “Wild Thoughts” is “Maria, Maria” sampled. So when (DJ) Khaled and them called and was like, yo, you’ve got to clear the sample for me. A lot of people don’t like it. Santana don’t clear samples. But I’m from a different generation. The idea of digging into the crates and discovery was very important. I’m always like, when I sampled the Bee Gees, my whole thing was, don’t forget if you take a piece of someone’s material, they’re going to listen it. When I create something in my brain, it’s my creation. So who the hell is going to make it better? That’s always in my brain. That’s why a lot of times it’s hard to clear it. But “Wild Thoughts” is amazing. Khaled’s amazing, Rihanna’s amazing. We called Santana and it was a 1-2-3.”
AP: Do you think you’re going to run for president of Haiti again?
Jean: “We ran for the urgency. I felt like the government was absent. We don’t feel like government is absent right now. As the country moves forward, as a social entrepreneur, I’m hoping in the future there’s some form of a school we can build. As a social entrepreneur, my true position with Haiti is to work with the private sector and help to bring jobs.”
AP: How much do you try and get political when you play live music?
Jean: “It’s the same as Jimi Hendrix. It’s like Vietnam. We knew what was going on in Vietnam. At the end of the day, Dylan and different people had different ways that they’re going to protest. For me, I stand in a position of Jimi Hendrix. I would play the “Star Spangled Banner” and parts of it would be distorted. It’s self expression to just let people know that maybe there’s parts of America right now through rhetoric that’s distorted. But don’t forget who we are.”
AP: What’s up with The Fugees?
Jean: “You know Paul McCartney, where’s the Beatles? It’s still a beautiful thing that people care and that’s the most important thing.”