One of the hazards of celebrity is being confused with another famous person. And that’s just what happened to Wyclef Jean when some kid asked for his autograph, mistaking him for will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas. The erstwhile Fugee recalls the incident on the track “Warrior’s Anthem,” one of the cuts off his new album, From The Hut to the Projects to the Mansion, out today. The Music Mix hopes Wyclef cuffed the ignorant young whippersnapper behind his ear! “No,” he says, “I signed the autograph. But I said, ‘I am not will.i.am!’”
Wyclef explains that he made the CD, a collaboration with mixtape producer DJ Drama, to inform young listeners (and remind older ones), that the musician and producer is also a rapper. That means, in part, adopting the alter-ego of “Toussaint St. Jean,” a nod to the 18th-century Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture. “It was very important to go back to the basic fundamentals,” he says. “It’s important [for people to realize], ‘Oh, damn, despite everything—we see him shaking his hips with Shakira, he write all of these big songs—his fundamentals are hip hop music.’ I wanted to remind people.”
After the break, Wyclef reveals more about his new album, the one after that, and the “hood”-friendly nature of Cyndi Lauper.
Entertainment Weekly: Is it correct to call this album a mixtape?
Wyclef Jean: I went in doing it in the frame of mind of a mixtape, meaning that I knew this was the prodigal son coming back to hip hop. I wanted to be clear with everyone: This not a “Wyclef Jean” album. This is “Wyclef Jean/a.k.a. Toussaint St. Jean,” the prodigal son returning to hip hop. But, when me and Drama started, it got bigger than a mixtape.
Guests include Timbaland, Lil’ Kim, and, on the track “Slumdog Millionaire,” Cyndi Lauper. What’s the connection with Ms. Lauper?
The whole hip-hop people, we’re always big fans of Cyndi Lauper. I mean everybody I knew grew up with Cyndi. There’s not a hood that don’t know Cyndi Lauper.
I did not know that.
Yeah, we got mad love for Cyndi Lauper: “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” And Cyndi Lauper’s got the whole Brooklyn thing too. Like, when I hear M.I.A., she’s like a Cyndi Lauper swag somehow.
What can you tell us about your next “proper” CD?
The next album’s called Wyclef Jean, because it’s really going to be the first album where the first seven songs are just Wyclef. The first seven songs are definitely going to be guitar-, piano-, band-driven. And I’m not going to start the features until number 8. The feature I’m most excited about is the one with Natasha Bedingfield. I’m just always amazed by singers because of my church background, and my dad being a minister. And Natasha Bedingfield is a voice and a half, man.
Who else will be appearing on the album?
I’ve got Mavado from Jamaica. I’ve got Lil Wayne. We did “Sweetest Girl, Part II,” which is a song called “Seventeen.” I also rocked out with Estelle. But it’s not going to be a thousand features. And this is what I’m moving towards in the future. I’m going for stadium music now, let’s go!
And, after that, is there any chance of the Fugees getting back together?
I mean, that would be a dream come true. I’m here, you know what I mean. But Wyclef don’t stop. If Paul McCartney don’t stop, Wyclef Jean don’t stop.
(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)
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