Nel Ust Wyclef Jean (; born on October 17, 1969), best known by his professional name Wyclef Jean, is a Haitian American rapper, musician and actor. At the age of nine, Jean immigrated as a child to the United States with his family and settled there. He first achieved fame as a member of the New Jersey hip hop group the Fugees. Jean has won three Grammy Awards for his musical work.
On August 5, 2010, Jean filed for candidacy in the 2010 Haitian presidential election. The Electoral Commission ruled him as ineligible to stand for office, as he had not met the constitutional requirement to have been resident in Haiti for five years.
Jean's efforts at earthquake relief, highly publicized in 2010 throughout Haiti and the United States, were channeled through his charitable organization, Yéle Haiti. The charity, which conducted education and welfare activities in Haiti between 2005 and 2010, effectively closed in 2012. It was investigated for failure to file tax returns and mismanagement of funds; a high proportion of its money went to travel and administrative expense. The New York Times reported that much of the money raised by the organization in the Hope for Haiti Now telethon was retained by Jean for his own benefit.
In 2012 Jean published his memoir Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story. Along with Carlos Santana, Avicii and Alexandre Pires, Jean was chosen to perform the closing ceremony at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Their single, "Dar Um Jeito" ("We Will Find a Way"), the official World Cup anthem, was released on April 29, 2014.
Jean was born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. In 1982, he immigrated with his family as a nine-year-old child to the United States; after living in Brooklyn, New York, they settled in East Orange and Newark, New Jersey. He began to make music as a child and has cited reggae artist Bigga Haitian as one of his early influences, as well as neighborhood heroes MC Tiger Paw Raw and producer Lobster v. Crab. His mother recognized his musical talent and bought him a guitar when he was in his teens; he played music to earn respect.
Jean graduated from Vailsburg High School, Newark, New Jersey, briefly attended Eastern Nazarene College and finished one semester at Five Towns College in New York. Jean has been a resident of Saddle River, South Orange, and North Caldwell, New Jersey. In 2009, Jean enrolled in the Berklee College of Music.
Jean and other musicians formed a group in the 1980s under the name Tranzlator Crew. After they signed with Ruffhouse Records and Columbia Records in 1993, they renamed their group as Fugees – an abbreviation of "refugees", and also a reference to Haitian immigrants. The group's debut album, Blunted on Reality, was released in 1994. It achieved limited commercial success, peaking at number 62 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album peaked at number 122 on the UK Albums Chart in 1997, and it was certified gold by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP). Blunted on Reality spawned three singles: "Boof Baf", "Nappy Heads" and "Vocab." "Nappy Heads" was the Fugees' first single to be ranked on the US Billboard Hot 100, charting at number 49.
In 1996, the Fugees released their second album, titled The Score. The album achieved significant commercial success in the United States, topping the US Billboard 200. It was later certified as six-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It performed well in several overseas nations, topping the Austrian, Canadian, French, German and Swiss albums charts, while also peaking at number two in Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Four commercially successful singles were released from The Score; "Fu-Gee-La", the first single from the album, peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the RIAA and by the Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI). The other three singles – "Killing Me Softly", "Ready or Not" and "No Woman, No Cry" – did not appear on the Billboard Hot 100 as they were not released for commercial sale, making them ineligible to appear on the chart, although they all received sufficient airplay to appear on the Hot 100 Airplay and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts. "Killing Me Softly", a cover of the Roberta Flack song "Killing Me Softly with His Song", performed strongly in other territories, topping the singles charts in Australia, Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom, among several others.
"Ready or Not" peaked at number one in the UK and at number three in Sweden. "No Woman, No Cry" – a cover of the Bob Marley & The Wailers song of the same name – topped the singles chart in New Zealand. Fugees collaborated with singer Bounty Killer on the single "Hip-Hopera" and recorded the single "Rumble in the Jungle" for the soundtrack to the film When We Were Kings in 1997: although they have not released any studio albums since The Score, a compilation album, Greatest Hits, was released in 2003, and spawned the single "Take It Easy".
Jean announced plans to begin a solo career with 1997's Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival Featuring the Refugee All-Stars (generally called The Carnival). The album's guests included Lauryn Hill and Pras along with Jean's siblings' group Melky Sedeck; the I Threes (back-up vocals for Bob Marley); The Neville Brothers and Celia Cruz. The album was a hit, as were two singles: "We Trying to Stay Alive" (adapted from the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive") and "Gone Till November" (recorded with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra).
Released in 2000, Jean's second solo album The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book was recorded with guests including Youssou N'Dour; Earth, Wind & Fire; Kenny Rogers; The Rock; and Mary J. Blige. With Blige he released "911" as a single. He was nominated for Best Hip-Hop Act at the 2000 MTV Europe Music Awards.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Jean participated in the benefit concert America: A Tribute to Heroes contributing a cover of the Bob Marley song "Redemption Song". His third album, Masquerade, was released in 2002. His fourth album, The Preacher's Son, was released in November 2003 as the follow-up to his first solo album, The Carnival. In 2004, he released his fifth album, Sak Pasé Presents: Welcome to Haïti (Creole 101) (released in the United States by Koch Records). Most of its songs are in his native language of Haitian Creole like "Fanm Kreyòl" with the French Caribbean Admiral T. He also figured on the album Mozaik Kreyòl of this one in the song "Secret Lover". Then he covered Creedence Clearwater Revival's song "Fortunate Son" for the soundtrack of the 2004 film remake of The Manchurian Candidate and wrote the song "Million Voices" for the film Hotel Rwanda.
Jean also produced and wrote songs for the soundtrack to Jonathan Demme's 2003 documentary The Agronomist, about the Haitian activist and radio personality Jean Dominique. With Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessis, Jean also composed the score of the documentary Ghosts of Cité Soleil, He helped produce the film and he appears briefly onscreen speaking by telephone in 2004 to a "chimere" gang-leader and aspiring rapper, Winston "2Pac" Jean.
During a period between 2004 and 2006 and fueled by a reunion performance in Dave Chappelle's "Block Party", it appeared that the Fugees were on track to record a new album, however Fugees member Pras claimed to Billboard, "To put it nicely, it's dead." He said the root of this animosity was the third member of the group, Lauryn Hill, and was quoted in Billboard as saying; "Me and Clef, we on the same page, but Lauryn Hill is in her zone, and I'm fed up with that shit. Here she is, blessed with a gift, with the opportunity to rock and give and she's running on some bulls**t? I'm a fan of Lauryn's but I can't respect that."