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Wyclef Jean Expounds on Difference Between Hip-Hop and Rap

Wyclef Jean
Getty Images, Michael Kovac

It is inevitable that the beloved art form of hip-hop goes through many changes and evolves daily. Often times, artists that started out in the ’90s find that they no longer have the same love for the genre as they once did.

Namely, Phife from A Tribe Called Quest mentioned during the ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest’ documentary that the way hip-hop is going, he can do with or without. On the other hand, Wyclef Jean feels very differently. He tells TheDrop.fm that his love for hip-hop will never die. In fact, the culture even lives on in his 7-year-old daughter, who takes hip-hop dance classes in school.

“Hip-hop is studied in the universities now, so being that it’s studied in the universities, there needs to be a record that shows how the old and the new connect,” Wyclef says, referring to his new single ‘Hip Hop’ off his latest mixtape, ‘April Showers.’

“True progress is determined on when you move a race forward. What has hip hop done? It has moved an entire race forward,” he continues.

Is hip-hop still moving races forward? “It’s important to distinguish between hip-hop and rap. Hip-hop is a culture and it’s a lifestyle that’s around the entire world,” Wyclef states. “A form of expression through the youth, that at the time, whatever their environment is going through they are going to reflect it in the music.”

“So you have hip-hop in Palestine, Nigeria and Somalia — all of these forms of hip-hop. You have different cultures now, you have rap, which the origin of rap would be the spoken word like the Last Poets. You have graffiti and dance culture, that you constantly see, like ‘Gangnam Style,’ which you can clearly see is inspired by an MC Hammer video, parts of the culture shares spaces.

“I love hip-hop when I hear the innovation of Kendrick Lamar, where you can hear a CD from beginning to end. At the same time, I can hear Chief Keef and appreciate him the same way I did N.W.A. when they were coming out and showing you what their area felt like. Rap is a billion dollar industry now, like the NBA, you are always going to filter through stuff that you don’t like.”

Most recently, a lot of people — particularly in the black community — were outraged to learn Lil Wayne referenced the barbaric beating of Emmett Till in a remix of Future‘s ‘Karate Chop’ song and compared the incident to a sexual act with a woman. Wyclef says every individual has freedom of speech, which should include Lil Wayne.

“I think that’s his form of expression. If I said it as Wyclef Jean, I would be wrong because you know what I stand for, everything I stand for I already said,” he shares. “The Fugees’ first album, ‘Blunted on Reality,’ we told the KKK go f— themselves. I said I’m a refugee so there’s a level of wisdom that you naturally know. So if I say something [like that], there would be a shock value.

“So you cant dwell on anyone, I can’t have an opinion on that because knowledge of self is key. His opinion is his opinion. If he was sitting with me now, then we can have a conversation that would lend itself to a dialogue, where I could be myself in a personal conversation with me. It wouldn’t be able to escalate into a movie into the press.”

Topics like this are sure to be heard in the lyrics of songs featured on his forthcoming ‘April Showers’ mixtape, which boasts collaborations from Waka Flocka, T.I. and 2 Chainz in addition to new artists. Once that effort is out next month, Wyclef plans on releasing an album.

Watch Wyclef Perform ‘Hip Hop’ in His Studio

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