Wyclef Says Karma Kicked His 'Caesar Complex'

Oct 5, 2012
Originally published on October 8, 2012 11:03 am

Multi-platinum musician, producer, activist and aspiring politician Wyclef Jean's new memoir Purpose: An Immigrant's Story provides a candid insight into his life and career. In an interview airing on Monday's Tell Me More, he sits down with host Michel Martin to discuss his family, his music and his hopes for Haiti. Jean also talks about his rocky romantic past with Lauryn Hill, how it inspired his music, and how it eventually broke up the group that made them both stars, The Fugees.

On His Childhood In Haiti

Spending his early years in Haiti gave Wyclef Jean a vivid experience of poverty, but also an appreciation for his family. "I always remember us eating from the floor at times when we were hungry, red dirt. We look back and laugh at it today," Jean says about himself and his siblings. "That dirt must have had some minerals in it because we're OK today. But we [were] happy. No matter what we [were] going through, as long as we had each other, we had the rain, the sun, we were happy."

"Drug dealer" Music, And His Father's Pride

The family came to America when Jean was a young boy. His father, a preacher, fought to keep him away from what he called "drug-dealer music", and refused to acknowledge or celebrate Wyclef's success for many years.

"The height of my career, being a Fugee, all I wanted him to say was 'Yo, son, I love you, you have done your work in America.' He never came to a Fugee show, never," Wyclef explains. "Probably two years before he died was when I got the closest to him, because I had a show at Carnegie Hall...Somehow I tricked him, and he came to the only Wyclef Jean concert. That night, every star possible was in that room to come see me...So after the concert...he comes to me and he's like, 'Do you know when you have made it in this country? When white people, black people, yellow people, green people, all come to see you, but they don't see the color, they see the man.' That was his way of telling me that you've made it."

Starting The Fugees, And Loving Lauryn Hill

As a teenager, Wyclef joined fellow Haitian-American musician, Pras Michel, who later introduced him to Lauryn Hill. Together, the trio created the band, The Fugees, and brought hip hop to a mainstream audience. Their album The Score is still one of the best selling hip hop albums of all time, a success that Jean attributes in part to audiences connecting with its "undertone." "There was romance. There was passion. There was love. There was lust," he explains.

The Arrogance Of An "African King"

His relationship with Hill began while he was also with his current wife, Claudinette. While Wyclef credits the romance with fueling The Fugee's success, he's also candid about how it led to the group's destruction. "It was important to detail the level and intensity of what really went down and led the group to what eventually was the break up," he says.

In retrospect, Wyclef sees his behavior as reckless. "My arrogance. My Caesar complex. My African King 'I can have five, six women at a time,' and then being a rock the time, these are all the components that lead you blind and make you think you own the world. And then karma strikes." Wyclef says he was devastated to discover that he was not the father of Hill's child. "Once that happened, it just broke up that fusion of whatever it was. It was like, we are clear that that can be no more."

Lauryn Hill's Mental State

Wyclef says that he welcomed the chance to explain his side of the relationship and the break up with Lauryn Hill. "It was important to come clean...It still is a healing process, but I still want to spark something in Lauryn too, because, there's times that I've reached out," he says. "You've read me on the Internet sometimes. I say 'yo, I feel like she's imbalanced [sic.], she's bipolar at times', and I feel people around her have her like that so that they can control her. So I've always been vocal and honest...if this thing leads to her writing a would make me feel very happy."

On His Failed Run For The Haitian Presidency

In 2010, Wyclef campaigned to become president of his native Haiti. He was excluded because he supposedly didn't meet the residency requirement. Wyclef still feels that his exclusion was unfair, but decided not to contest the ruling. "People in the country know that I could have rised [sic.] that place up if I wanted to the same night. Why didn't I do that? Because before me, I've seen regimes tear the country apart. Kids die. Just on the ego of a man saying 'No, I've got to be president.' I didn't run to be president, I ran on the urgency of wanting to help the youth."

He hasn't ruled out a run in the future, but now is focused on changing Haiti from outside of the government. "I don't have to be president to do great things for my country, but at the same time, to get legislation and policy passed, you have to be in some kind of office," he says, "So I don't know what the future will lead to."

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I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. If you are a fan of hip-hop, a follower of Haitian politics, a student of the immigrant experience writ large, or just love celebrity gossip, then you probably know the name Wyclef Jean. Born in Haiti, raised in the U.S., he became a member of the pioneering hip-hop group the Fugees. Their second album, "The Score," is still one of the best-selling hip-hop albums of all time, including their version of "Killing Me Softly," which became the song of the summer in 1996.


FUGEES: (Singing) Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words, killing me softly with his song, killing me softly with his song, telling my whole life with his words, killing me softly...

MARTIN: Now, Wyclef Jean has brought together all those strands of his interesting life, in a new memoir called "Purpose," where he talks about his work in Haiti, both before and after that devastating earthquake two years ago; his attempt to run for the presidency of that country; and he opens up about his stormy relationship with fellow Fugee and singer Lauryn Hill, and how that affected the group and his marriage. And Wyclef Jean is with us now. Welcome, thank you so much for joining us.

WYCLEF JEAN: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: You know, I can't help but notice that a number of major hip-hop stars - like Jay-Z, Rza, Common - have all released autobiographies in the past few years, and I wondered why you wanted to write this one right now.

JEAN: Because I felt that the past two years, three years, there's what's called a public perception - meaning, I know people that have fistfights over me, you know what I mean? People in the salon, while they doing their nails, it goes down. So it was time that you hear the words from the man himself, firsthand.

MARTIN: You know, I'm glad you said that because I can't help but notice that the book is getting wildly different reactions. These are two reviews that I read on the same day. One was from the Star-Ledger - says, "it's to Wyclef's credit that he doesn't attempt to defend himself, instead owning his failings, even as he keeps repeating them." The L.A. Times reviewer says, "Jean has written an expose in which the reader can't quite possibly find a single redeeming quality about its author" - which is harsh, but I'm like, are they talking about the same person? And what you're telling me is, you've always evoked that reaction.

JEAN: No. I think that once again, through my experience of life and the age that I'm in right now, like, what I don't want anybody to get is - the hardest thing for celebrities, celebrities love to be accepted. It was important that when you're stating a memoir, that you're reading and you say, OK, I understand who this person is; because as human beings, what we do every day is, we try to make things better. Because human beings - if we succeed, we succeed; and if we fail, we fail. And the most important thing is to get back up, and keep going.

MARTIN: You write very vividly about many, many events in your childhood, in a way that really allowed me to feel that I saw it, or could see it, or was there. Could you just pick one story out, and tell? I mean, I have stories, obviously, that I would pick, that I remember; but I was just wondering if you'd pick one, and tell us why you wanted to put it in there.

JEAN: Well, I think, for me, the story of being in a village in Haiti; and me and my brother, Samuel Jean, who is a lawyer today - was like, one of the greatest debaters in high school; and I always remember us eating from the floor, at times, when we were hungry - red dirt. And we look back, and we laugh at it, today. And I'd be like, yo, man. We used to eat dirt from the floor. Yo, man, that dirt must have had some minerals in it, man, because we're OK today. (LAUGHTER) But we was happy. So no matter what we was going through, as long as, like, we had each other, we had the rain, the sun. We were happy.

MARTIN: You know what's funny? You and I did not speak in advance of this conversation. That is precisely the passage that I marked.

JEAN: Oh, wow. Wow.

MARTIN: And I'll just read it. (Reading) We were always hungry, but we never felt that we lived in poverty because we were always happy. If you have love, you have the will to survive whatever comes. When there was no food, we ate clusters of the red dirt that made up the floor of our hut. This is common in Haiti. The dirt has some degree of mineral content to nurture you, and the bulk of it fills you up when there is no meal to eat.

One of the reasons this struck me is that, you know, obviously, we follow events in Haiti closely - we try to - and that when this has come up before, a lot of people deny it. They say, oh, that's not true. And when we've reported on people - particularly given, you know, there have been a couple of periods, in recent years, when there have been a lot difficulties, economic difficulties. And a lot of people deny it. They say, oh, that's just not true. And I'm just curious to say - you have no problem, just - it is true.

JEAN: Well, it's important because it's not just true in Haiti. It's true in Africa. It's true in India. It's true in all parts of the world where, if your section is extreme poverty in a certain area - and we're not talking - if you notice, I go inside the village because the idea of Haiti as Haiti, it's a beautiful place. It's like Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. The only parts that are portrayed, unfortunately, are the slum areas. And me - coming from one of those rural areas - it was important to describe to the person reading, that you understand. For young kids to subject themselves to having eaten dirt, it has to make you think. And it makes you appreciate just the little things in life, you know; like the air that we breathe.

MARTIN: But I think it also speaks to something that you talk about a lot, in the book, which - two things, which is - one is that you like to be very honest, even to the point where some people might find it brutal; and that it takes you wherever it takes you, even if people don't like it. And I'm interested in where you think you got that quality from, and if you think it's very important to your art.

JEAN: Well, the first thing is, what I've learned - my grandfather was a voodoo priest. My father was a minister. My father - he had a tragic death. I mean, his death - he went under a car, like - and I was there. I went to the hospital. I'm in the studio. I get a call. They say, yo, your pops is not breathing in the ambulance. Water starts coming out of my eyes as I head - because something about when someone creates you, you can feel when they are dismissed and have left earth, naturally. If you are listening to this and you've lost one of your parents, you clearly understand what I'm saying.

But we're born, and then we leave. And history is judged and it's decided by the work that we leave behind because cynics and critics that are talking in this time period - we all shall pass. And as we pass, then the generations to come will decide, you know, who they want to follow. You know, they would be like, you know what? I'm following Bob Marley. You know, I'm following Mozart. I'm following Martin Luther King and you start reading certain things about Martin Luther King, where even at times, his own people were not accepting him and they was, like, throwing him under the bus.

And then he knew that at the end of the day. Understand. This is the most important thing. It's better that you be honest with yourself than be popular.

MARTIN: But do you think of yourself as a prophetic figure in line with the people you just mentioned? Do you see yourself that way?

JEAN: No. What I see myself as is a student. This is how my father was raised. Whatever my dad instilled in me, he was like, at times, when you want to know who you are and if you can make it - and you're going to go through so many things in life at times, man, you're going to have to compare it to something.

Let me give you a list of people. You compare to what they go through and you tell me if you're actually going through something. And that's how I go through life.

MARTIN: I'm speaking with Wyclef Jean. We're talking about his new memoir, "Purpose: An Immigrant's Story." Could you talk a little bit about your father, if you wouldn't mind? I mean, it was interesting that - it seemed like an experience that a lot of people go through with their fathers and maybe kind of amplified by the whole need to try to figure out how to be in this country, as an immigrant, and make your way in this new experience. Your dad, being a minister, as you said, had a hard time accepting your involvement with hip-hop.

JEAN: Yes. When I came from Haiti, my dad brought us to Marlborough Projects in Brooklyn. He clearly had a plan for the kids. We couldn't speak English that well - me and my brother. There was like - and I remember him buying us a - like, Muppet Show instruments. And these instruments, when I look back at it - and then we used to watch "The Muppet Show." You know, "The Muppet Show," too, was part of how we learned English, too. That was another part.

But, clearly by design, he was setting up the church band, which later we would become. And so, at a very young age, we was in the church singing Caribbean gospel. So he clearly had a plan - theology school. He had a plan. And, like I told you, my other brother's a lawyer, so great debater in high school and everything, so my dad had a plan. Time for theology school. Samuel Jean is headed to the bus. Wyclef Jean is nowhere to be found.

So, to explain to my father that I wanted to be a rap star was - you know, it was the most taboo. Like, he didn't get that, you know, even when we was young in the projects, he called it drug dealer music. Now, my son want to do drug dealer music and he was like, hip-hop? What's this stuff? I don't - it is drug dealer music. No. Even to one time, I remember watching Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," and the way that Radio Raheem loved his radio and then he just crashed his radio. This was my dad whenever - you know, we had to hide the radio. You could not be playing a boom box around my dad.

So to see us go there and the height of my career, being a Fugee, all I wanted him to say was, yo, son, I love you. You have done your work in America. You made it. You know, he never came to a Fugee show. Never. And I would say probably a year before he died or two years before he died, probably when I got the closest to him because I had a show at Carnegie Hall.

Now, keep in mind, I left Haiti when I was 10 years old. By the time I was 16 years old, I was the head of my jazz band in high school, playing upright bass and reading sheet music at a speed where it don't seem possible for people. It doesn't make sense. So, when I told my dad - I was like, man, I'm playing at Carnegie Hall. He said, Carnegie Hall? What's that kind of stuff? I said, it's going to be a gospel show. He said, gospel who? I said, yeah. It's going to be gospel and classical music. Somehow, I tricked him and he came to the only Wyclef Jean concert and, that night, every star possible was in that room to come see me, but I stopped everything and I was like, yo, the biggest star in the house tonight is my dad. Look here on the balcony.

So, after the concert, I'm waiting for that acceptance, you know, like he's going to be like, yo, Clef, man, you've done made it, you know. And he comes to me. He's like, you know, do you know when you have made it in this country? And I said, no, no. When, when, when? He said, when white people, black people, yellow people, green people all come to see you, but they don't see the color. They see the man. And, when he said that, you know, that was his way of telling me that you've made it, you know.

MARTIN: Did you cry?

JEAN: No. I felt strong because - I cried when he died, like a baby, for days because I still wanted him to tell me he loved - like, I loved you that night. You know what I'm saying? Yeah.

MARTIN: Do you want to go back to those early years again, though, when you were first getting into hip-hop? You talk about it in the book, about how those initial rap battles - you know, how you used to start them with the first line that you ever rapped? Can you just - can you do a little for us?

JEAN: Well, the thing about the Eminem "8 Miles," so think about it. Before you had that kind of movie, you had us, so it was all about acceptance. In high school - my name was Nel Ust Wycliffe Jean. My homies was like, yo, Nel don't cut it for a rapper, man. You got to swag up, so then I was like, well, let's just call me Nelly Nel. So, as Nelly Nel, I would go to school with a gold microphone, which was from my daddy's church. I would take it from the pulpit, put it in my suitcase.

And so I'm at homeroom and, you know, then I go, Nelly Nel, you know, you got a battle in the cafeteria. I'm like, yo, that's not my lunch period. You know, like, no, man, this kid just snuck in the school from another school, so a kid would sneak from another school and be in the cafeteria, so now I have to show up and then the battle would start. You know, so it's like, you have to start where you're at, so I was in homeroom, you know, and then from homeroom, went to Spanish. You know what I'm saying?

So I'm like, yo, before this battle even start, I got to flip the language. I could go from the English to the Spanish, (foreign language spoke). You looking at me, homey? You still ain't convinced. You might get convinced when I flip it in French. (Foreign language spoken). And, at this point, the school is going ballistics and, you know - and then they'd come at you, too, so it's not like you just coming at them. And I was winning every battle possible. I became, like, the most threatened rapper in the school and so now I'm building a whole arrogance around me.

And we lived in a funeral home. My father's church was a burnt down funeral home, which we lived in, so I never let nobody see where I lived, so we would let all the kids go to school. Then we would leave this funeral home. After I started getting my rank in the school, they did some high investigation on me. These kids - and followed where I lived and then, the next day, there was, like - yo, this kid Abdulla want to battle you, you know, and I'm all arrogance, you know, not knowing I'm about to get really bowled up. You know what I mean?

So I start doing my thing. You know, I'm like, how dare you? You crazy, you lazy. I'm going to have you ghost like Swayze. I'm going in, and then he looks at me and he's like, yo. He says, you need to get rid of that gold microphone because we all know you live in a burnt funeral home. Oh, my God. There's certain rap lines that happened where the whole crowd start running and just like, ooh-o-oohh. And they ain't coming back and...

MARTIN: You can remember this all these years later? This amazes me.

JEAN: Yeah. But it - that's how it went down. Abdul, man, if you're listening, man, that's some fowl stuff, saying I live in that burnt funeral home.


MARTIN: We need to take a short break and, when we come back, musician Wyclef Jean opens up about his volatile relationship with former Fugees bandmate, Lauryn Hill, how it affected their music, her career and his marriage. That and more from Wyclef Jean's new book, "Purpose: An Immigrant's Story," and that's just ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.


MARTIN: It's pretty common to teach your kids about who they are and where they come from, but mom and writer Alina Adams says teaching her kids to hide their heritage is a safer choice.

ALINA ADAMS: I don't think there's anything to be won by standing up and saying, I am A, B and C and getting pummeled for it.

MARTIN: It's a provocative moms' conversation and we'll have it next time on TELL ME MORE.


MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We are continuing our conversation with Wyclef Jean about his new memoir, "Purpose: An Immigrant's Story." You might remember that, along with Pras Michel and Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean created the band, The Fugees. Fans made their blockbuster album, "The Score," the best-selling hip-hop album up to that point and critics swooned over their then remarkable blend of rap and multicultural musicianship.

I'd like to play just a little bit of the song, "Ready or Not."


FUGEES: (Singing) Ready or not, here I come. You can't hide. I'm going to find you and make you want me. Yeah. Now that I escape, sleepwalk awake, those who could relate know the ain't cake. Jail bars ain't golden gates. Those who fake, they break when they meet their 400-pound mate. If I could rule the world, everyone would have a gun...

MARTIN: I asked Wyclef Jean why he thought people around the world connected to that album.

JEAN: The undertone, and what that means is, when you go through a x-ray machine, you're not paying attention. There's a tone, you know, as you sit here, if you pay close attention, you can hear the ground under you rumbling, but you have to pay attention. This is all science. We, as human beings, you know, as tough as we want to play, you know, we're from cells. This score is being created. You're not aware that certain records you're singing to - someone was crying before that record even was recorded. You're not aware of that.

This is all undertone because, as I'm talking to you, if emotion comes and I want to cry and I'm singing, it's going to come out. That emotion just lives on, like, when you hear Mary J. old songs, sometimes, you feel that pain. You're like, man, there's really pain here. I can feel that.

So, with The Fugees, it was the complete undertone. There was romance. There was passion. There was love. There was lust. There was - you know, so...

MARTIN: Well, speaking of which, you know where I'm going.

JEAN: Yeah. But, before you go there, what I want you to realize is there's a hum which you're hearing in the background and, at that year and at that time, what you're listening to in the background is a sample from a record. The artist is called Enya, all the way from Europe and I'm in the hood and I was always amazed by other kind of music coming from other places and da, na, na, na, na. Then I put the SP hard drums against that thing and Lauryn walks into the room and she's like, ready or not, here I come.

So, to start your - the answer to your part, the attraction started with the fusion of the ability to share information. I like Bob Marley. Oh, yeah? I like Donny Hathaway. Who's that? Play him for me. Oh, that's Donny Hathaway? Man, I want to sing like that. OK. This riff goes like that. Try that out. I like reggae. Eh. What? Do that again. How that go?

This is not something which happened for a year, so it was important to detail exactly the level and the intensity of what really went down and led the group to what eventually was the breakup, which we never publicly said - ever said, yo, we broke up, you know.

MARTIN: Well, that's true. I mean, one of the things that the book does is confirm what I think many people suspected, which - that you and Lauryn Hill had a relationship that was intense. It was a personal intimate relationship, which was as intense as the music that infused it and was surrounded by it, but this also was going on at the same time that you were with your wife, Claudinette, or became your wife, who you're still married to, and then through relationships that she had - and it just seems very exhausting, but you also try to describe it as being kind of - how could you describe it? Part of the art? How would you describe it?

JEAN: The way that I could describe it is, at the end of the day, we all are human beings and, as human beings, there are actions which bring reactions. And, looking back at it, when I see that, I said, that action got a bit exhausting at times. But it still brought a reaction. I can give you countless different historical events that have happened from music, from art that would have not happened if there wasn't some kind of undertone of something going on.

You know, some people will be, like, oh, so basically you're saying, man, if you ain't sleep with Lauryn Hill you couldn't have created the score. You know, I didn't say that at all. But what I did say was the undertone of what you're feeling when you listening to the score and you keep playing it over and over again, there's a mystique and a mystery about it that you can't even figure out. You're just like this sounds good. Every track sounds good, it feels good. So I just broke it down from a philosophical raw level of what I personally thought the thing was.

MARTIN: Can you listen to that album now?

JEAN: I listen to all my music, you know, because it's important, like for me, like when I'm on a plane, it's a beautiful thing to be able to put on any CD and go back to a place and a time, and I think that's what songs do.

MARTIN: The - Lauryn Hill and her album - her first solo album, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," yours was "Carnival," and you said that the two albums as(ph), quote, the end of us, they are what was left from that beautiful star going supernova. Can you talk a little bit about that before we move on to other subjects? Because this is not the only thing important here, but it does take up a lot of time in your book and you kind of explain it. You explain a lot about your artistic process, but you also explain a lot about your emotional process. If you just - tie a bow on it isn't quite the right word, but what did you mean by that?

JEAN: Well, the trust was broken. There was a bond and there's muses that we have in our life. Like if we're lucky we get a chance to be around a muse that will inspire you and make you feel a certain way. And we talk of betrayal. And me finding out that, you know, which is all over the Internet that yo, Wyclef thought Lauryn Hill's first baby was his. Yes, but looking back at it, I had a woman, right? So my arrogance, right, my like Caesar complex, my African King, I can have five, six women at a time, and then being a rock star - I'm just saying - at the time these are all the components that lead you blind to think you own the world. And then karma strikes. And then karma says, look man, as you scorn you will be scorned. And then when it scorns you, you play the victim at the time. You go, oh, I thought that was my baby, look it's not my baby. But you're not saying, look, I just scorned to women and look, the position that I put them in. And that's why it was important to be that honest and that blunt. Once that happened, what it did was it, like I said in the book, it just broke up that fusion of whatever it was. It was like, OK, well, we are clear that that can be no more. So we are clear now. So then we moved on.

MARTIN: Well, before we move on, though, there are people -I'm going back to the two reviews I read at the beginning.

There are those who will listen to this and say that is an honest man. He really knows himself and he is really telling it like it is. He is like King David, you know, or Bill Clinton, you know, flawed but powerful and large. And there are others who will say that is not a gentleman telling that women's business like that.

JEAN: Yeah. The thing about it, those that says that is not a gentleman, what those people will do is in the course of four to five years from now, or six years from now, seven years, they will be getting 50 to 60 different point of views of exactly what happened in that era. And those people will take all of those reviews and make their opinions of what they are. But for the generations to come that will have the next Fugees, that will have the next Black Eyed Peas, that are going to create the next Marvin Gayes, these people are relevant, these new kids coming in that are going to be the future. When they pick up that thing, like when I read the Tammy Terrill thing, they got to be like, oh, word? This is how it went down? Nah, we're not going to do it like this. I got a different idea. So once again, it's not a secret because for you to put somebody's business out there, that means that only you and that person knows the business. But this is not business that only me or one person knows. This is business that eventually will come out from different people that was on tour that saw things at times that used to send information to radio stations that put information on blogs. So at the end of the day, it was important to come clean because it makes me feel like, OK, as I write this, it still is a healing process, but I still want to spark something in Lauryn too, because there's times that I've reached out. I mean you've read me on the Internet sometimes. I say yo, I feel like she's imbalanced, she's bipolar at times, and I feel people around her have her like that so that they can control her. So I've always been vocal and honest, right? So at the end of the day, if this thing leads to her writing a book and she saying her side, right, it will make me feel very happy. 'Cause at the end of the day, I mean I felt she did the book already with "Miseducation," to be honest with you. Once again, right, I'm just telling what I feel.

MARTIN: I hear you.

JEAN: But I just feel - I want you to look at it, you know, in that sense because the truth eventually will come out.

MARTIN: I'm speaking with Wyclef Jean. We're talking about his new memoir, "Purpose: An Immigrant's Story."

I still want to talk a little bit about what you think your particular gift is.

JEAN: I never really know like what my gift is because a man don't call himself a prophet, other people call him a prophet. A man don't call himself a genius. Other people calls him genius. For me, I can't explain how from 10 to 16 how I was able to pick up jazz so quick in like three, four years. I don't know how to explain that. I can't explain how Clive Davis calls me up and says I need a song for Whitney Houston and I know the song has to be "My Love Is Your Love" and I write it. All I can tell you is when I get on stage or when I write this stuff or when I speak passionately, you know, it definitely don't come from me because look at the guy, whoever, whatever made Adam and Eve, that's the guy that you should look at. And the reason why I've said that, because I've seen men so powerful but yet in their coffins they look so empty. So my gift is not to be determined by me.

MARTIN: Well, one of the things that you are certainly passionate about is Haiti. In fact, we've spoken with you a number of times on the program about your work with Yele Haiti and you did make an effort to run for the presidency. You were disqualified because of the residency requirement and you do cover a lot of that in the book. I did want to ask - well, just a couple of things because you do stay involved.

JEAN: I just - I...

MARTIN: Go ahead.

JEAN: I wanted to clear something up.

MARTIN: Sure. Mm-hmm.

JEAN: The residency thing which everyone keeps bringing up, there's no such thing as five years' residency in Haiti in the case of Wycelf. I have to explain it to the people so they understand. My uncle, he is an ambassador to Haiti for America. He was running for president; he got taken out in the residency charge. I have a diplomatic passport. I am an ambassador at large. The job and the responsibility of an ambassador at large is never to stay in the country. Your job is to travel around and promote your country. So the idea, the reason why they took me out of the race is clearly because they felt the threat of - they don't know what my policies is, what's his world agenda. Then they took my uncle out of the race because it's like, yo, if the nephew is out of the race, you know what he's going to do, he's going to take all of his supporters and put them behind his uncle. So I really want to clear that. Why didn't I contest that? People in the country know that I could've rised(ph) that place up if I wanted to this same night. Why didn't I do that? Because before me I've seen regimes tear the country apart. Kids die. Just on the ego of a man saying no, I've got to be president. I didn't run to be president, I ran on the urgency of wanting to help the youth. I just wanted to clear that.

MARTIN: Well, the only reason that I did not ask you about that is that we previously spoke with you about it and you spoke about it at length.

JEAN: Yeah, you know, whenever I hear residency, though, I be like...

MARTIN: I hear you.

JEAN: ...that's not, you know, that don't - trust me.

MARTIN: Well, no, you spoke about it then.

JEAN: I'm going to make a song about it.

MARTIN: I think you should.

JEAN: (Singing) Residency, not true. I'm just a resident...


MARTIN: OK. I was just going to ask you what is - what's next for you in that area? Is there still work that you want to do? And are you still very disappointed?

JEAN: Well, I sound disappointed.


JEAN: You're like, yeah, he's still - he's still bitter he didn't get it.

MARTIN: No, I didn't say that. I asked the question: Are you still very disappointed? Let me write the question mark so you can see it. Are you?

JEAN: Yes, he's still bitter. Disappointment - I'm not, because I have somebody that I really believe in. I believe in Michel Martelly and he's my friend. The problem that he is really facing is there's no bipartisan front. It's like he's fighting against the parliament, the systems that be. But I'm excited that he can be the president, so that's a new wave and that's a new start. I will continue to help my country. I feel that there's a lot that I can bring in the future to my country. I really don't think that the destiny will end for me where is it's just like, oh, he ran and then he, you know? Because guess what? I don't have to be president to do great things for my country, but at the same time, to get legislation and policy passed - whoo, you have to be in some kind of office. So I don't know what the future will lead to.

MARTIN: How do you feel now that you got it all out there? Or whatever it is you are, you put it all out.

JEAN: There's...

MARTIN: How do you feel now?

JEAN: There's seven books that I'm writing. This is the first one, you know, and the memoir was important. The second book is called "They Tried To J. Edgar Hoover Me," and it's a political spoof. It's going to be really cool.


JEAN: It's a political spoof based on my political run for the presidency. Politics could be brutal, right? But at the same time, it's some funny stuff that be going on, you know? So that will be the next book.

MARTIN: Wyclef Jean's new memoir is called "Purpose: An Immigrant's Story." It's out now and he was kind enough to stop by our studios here in Washington, D.C..

Thank you.

JEAN: Merci beaucoup.

MARTIN: And talking about political spoofs, let's end with Wycelf's own song, imagining he was in charge - here's "If I Was President."


JEAN: If I was president, I'd get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, and buried on Sunday, then back to work on Monday. If I was president...

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

JEAN: (Singing) Instead of spending billions on the war, I can use that money so I can feed the poor. 'Cause I know some so poor, when it rains that's when they shower. Screaming fight the power. That's when... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.