Wyclef Jean Explains Agenda With ‘April Showers’ Mixtape, Refugee Republic Record Label
After a lunch break, Wyclef Jean is in a happy mood -- he puts a piece of gum in his mouth and playfully tells the few people in his studio session at Daddy’s House in New York City to quiet down so he can focus on his interview with TheDrop.fm.
He beams with excitement while discussing his latest mixtape, 'April Showers.' “The reason I call it 'April Showers,'" he says between chewing, "is because when you’re on the block, right, and they say, 'Yo, we coming to spray the block up,' everyone starts running; they shower up the hood. But at the same time, April showers bring May flowers."
Although the 43-year-old appears fun and likes to joke often, he becomes very serious when it's time to discuss his new mixtape, especially when asked if any known rappers will be featured on it besides Waka Flocka, 2 Chainz and T.I. "The idea of music today is always based on who is on the track than opposed to what’s the body of music about," Clef states. "I want people to be attracted to the idea that when you play this mixtape, it's like you have to listen to it from beginning to end to understand the full story."
Waka Flocka will be featured on a track called 'Trap 'N Roll,' a mix of rock 'n' roll against trap music. Wyclef says you'll hear a different side of Waka on this song. "The way you'll hear Waka Flocka on 'Trap 'N Roll,' it's like you've never heard him like this before," the former Fugees member reveals. "Waka and all the other artists were brought in to play a part in the story [I want to tell on 'April Showers.']"
At this moment, Wyclef begins to reminisce about the Fugees' first Grammy award-winning album, 'The Score.' "When y'all heard 'The Score' from the Fugees right, y'all did not know anyone on there," he says. "When ya heard 'Cowboys,' y'all was like, 'That s--- just sounds dope.' So I think everything is so name-driven now that the idea of just listening to the music is not there anymore."
The rapper admits he wants his new mixtape to be about discovery and that his agenda with putting out a mixtape instead of an album is to showcase to the world new talent. "The mixtape is going to allow me to introduce to you a lot of the new artists that I'm coming with," Wyclef discloses. "If it was just for my sake, I would just do an album. But I have not put out an album in seven years so [it wouldn't make sense to do an album first before a mixtape.]"
Expect to hear artists from his label Refugee Republic -- they're reminiscent of Erykah Badu, Billie Holiday and a modern Foxy Brown.
London producers were sought out by Wyclef to sonically create a new sound -- rock 'n' roll against trap music. "Keep in mind when I did 'The Carnival,' a lot of times I would play 'Quantanamera' and it was weird to people back then," he shares. "They would say, 'Clef is the alternative worldly rapper.' But now everything is worldly, so what I’m doing is just taking everything I did then and everything you hear now and just pushing the sonics, so that’s where we are going."
So far, Wyclef has released two singles from 'April Showers': 'Hip Hop' and 'Mid-Life Crisis.' On the latter, he promises he isn't going through a mid-life crisis; the song is a journal of everything he's been through .
"Going from picking up dead bodies in my country, to defending myself and my charity, to running for president, them telling me, ‘You can’t be president, you got to have five years residency,’ sometimes they tell an artist, 'Press can kill you, if you pay attention to what people say about you so much you can kill yourself,'" he continues. "You have seen artists who have fell under the scrutiny of the press and they let themselves go there, so 'Mid-Life Crisis' is my way of [not taking myself there.]"
Now, he looks down, searches the floor and looks up again. He begins to rap the lyrics to 'Mid-Life Crisis.' “No burns on my back, I’m back from hell’s fire / Thug angels say the devil’s a liar,” he rhymes.
Raw talent and instrumentation is what Wyclef suggests will separate his Refugee Republic label from all the others. "I miss seeing artists playing instruments," he says. Wyclef and his band the Fugees saw unprecedented success in the '90s. Compared to that time, this generation defines success a little differently now. Clef doesn't know if his new artists will ever see the same success he once did. "In my era you had to sell a lot of records to be successful," he says. "Today, it’s just based on your YouTube numbers. So the artists I have have potential to build a great career for themselves."
He may be a well-established entertainer with a roster of artists all his own, but that doesn't mean he's not a fan of others. While recently touring Europe, Wyclef performed with the Jackson 5 and says he's still on a high from it. "I was doing a TV show and rhe Jacksons happened to be there," Wyclef explains. "I invited them to come to my show that night. I didn’t think they would really show up. So I'm rocking on stage and there they were! When they came up there I was like, 'Holy s---! This is the f---ing Jacksons!' I live for those kinds of things. Priceless!”
His forthcoming mixtape, 'April Showers,' arrives next month. An album will debut in September.
Watch the Fugees' 'Ready or Not' Video