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Wyclef Jean Reveals ‘Ruthless’ Family Stories, Confronts ‘Vices’ in ‘Purpose’

HarperCollins

“It’s weird writing about yourself,” Wyclef Jean tells The BoomBox. This week, the former Fugees frontman debuted his first memoir, Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story. Having spent two years penning the read alongside author Anthony Bozza, the rapper-producer-humanitarian unveils a final product that reveals personal stories surrounding his praised music career, his bid for Haitian presidency and the rise and fall of his relationships with Pras and Lauryn Hill.

Nestled in a back room of a Barnes & Noble in midtown Manhattan, N.Y., before signing copies of Purpose for fans, Jean explains why frank discussion about his life was imperative. “It was important to just paint what the picture was,” he shares. “My whole entire career, I’ve always been… straight-up with what I feel I do. So it’s real.”

With eight chapters covering 250 pages, Clef’s anecdotes are surprising and somber at times. From his father referring to the sounds and lyrics he created as “bum music” to his grandmother cutting him with a Swiss Army knife for stealing a radio, life wasn’t always so sweet for the Haitian-born entertainer.

“She wasn’t like stabbing me,” he reveals of his grandmother’s choice in disciplinary methods. “But Caribbean people are ruthless when it comes to disciplining their kid. There’s something about them, whatever object they have, you don’t want to tell ‘em no bad news with that object around.”

As Jean recalls the moment she cut him across the back, he laughs. “My grandma was like, ‘Just the hard work that your father [did to bring] you to this country I’d rather kill you than if you think you gonna be a shoplifter,’” The Carnival creator states. “I mean looking back on it my grandmother is pretty crazy. It was ruthless and anybody from the Caribbean knows those kind of stories. They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, mon, you have the crazy grandmother too.’”

HarperCollins

Jean also gives answers for loyal Fugees supporters who’ve begged for a follow-up to 1996′s The Score. After the hip-hop trio parted ways in 1997, questions loomed — Why did they stop recording? Who was to blame? — and neither Pras, Hill nor Jean addressed when a new LP would come. The latter breaks his silence in the book, giving a detailed account of an affair he had with Hill, whom he says lead him to believe he was the father of her firstborn son. Her lies caused the Fugees breakup, Jean claims.

“You know one side of the story,” he discloses. “You’re like, ‘Yo, let me just accuse Clef because he’s guilty because he’s a man… so fuck that n—-. Let me just excuse him.’ Meanwhile I’m holding the box of information in my hands and I never say nothing to you.

“But it’s greater than me. Whatever you think of [Lauryn Hill], I want you to think that. If you think she’s scorned, I want you to think that ’cause then you’re gonna feel for her.”

He goes on to say that including news of Hill’s deception finally closes a chapter in his life. “My job is not to tarnish her image in a conversation,” Jean admits. “But I’m like 42 right, and it’s like, ‘Well Clef, what really happened?’ Y’all keep asking me for a Fugees record and every time y’all ask me I keep telling y’all, ‘Yo I dont know.’

“At the end of the day, this is another part of the story here. I thought the first kid was mine. That didn’t happen. You know what? That’s why the Fugees broke up. So leave me alone [laughs].”

Marie Claudinette, Jean’s wife, stood by his side amidst the rumors years ago. When he confirmed his affair with Hill, she kicked him out of the house. He subsequently wrote “Cheated (to All the Girls),” a single featured on his debut solo album, The Carnival. While Jean admits “men have vices” — referring to the act of cheating on his woman — he confirms he and Claudinette are still together today. “It’s always Bonnie and Clyde with me,” the MC states. “She’s ride or die, period.”

For Wyclef Jean, that’s how the story goes.

See 15 of the Best Hip-Hop & R&B Albums of 2012 (So Far)

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