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Wyclef Jean: Tiny Desk Concert

Wyclef Jean doesn't get his just due. It was only after The Fugees had the world in their collective palms, and then disbanded, when we got to know his unadulterated abilities as a musician — his first solo album The Carnival was a project equal to (if not greater than) his greatest successes with The Fugees. From there, his focus shifted to discovering and producing stars, stretching all genres in his solo mission, and philanthropic work for his homeland of Haiti.

A seasoned pro, he walked through our doors greeting and charming anyone within arm's reach. Once in front of an audience, he was in attack mode, playing every instrument in sight. Clef doled out stories ranging from his upbringing and rise with The Fugees to intimate musical encounters with Whitney Houston and Destiny's Child. The mentions were properly placed and added substance to the performance, but to me, he pulled what I'd call a "subtle stunt." Hip-hop is and has always been about youth and freshness, so most elder statesmen of rap aren't celebrated to the degree of their peers in rock 'n' roll and country music. Every now and again it's necessary to inform the younger generation, who would otherwise never know these epic moments ever happened.

Over the past few years, we've seen a resurgence of sorts for Wyclef. Young Thug noted a heavy influence, naming a song after him and then tag-teaming on a different track on last year's Jeffery; one of the biggest songs of 2017, DJ Khaled's "Wild Thoughts," prominently samples Wyclef's colossal collaboration with Carlos Santana on "Maria Maria." His career trajectory was recently documented on TV One's Unsung, and in September he dropped the third installment of The Carnival. He starts his set with two highlights from his latest record, and finishes with a climactic rendition of his signature hit like you've never seen or heard.

Set List

  • "Borrowed Time"
  • "Turn Me Good"
  • "Gone Till November"
  • Musicians

    Wyclef Jean (guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals); Jazzy Amra (vocals); Patrick Andriantsialonina (bass); Manny Laine (drums)


    Producers: Bobby Carter, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, CJ Riculan, Alyse Young, Nicholas Garbaty; Production Assistant: Salvatore Maicki; Photo: Christina Ascani/NPR

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    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Bobby Carter
    WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.