Wyclef Jean Biography (1972-)

. Born Nel Ust sometime around October 17, 1972, in the small town of Croix-des-Bouquets, just outside of Port-au-Prince . Jean’s real birth date is unknown, due in part to ’s confusing record-keeping system and conflicting U.S. immigration records. Jean was one of four childrenthree sons and a daughterborn to pastor Gesner Jean and his wife.

When Wyclef was 9 years old, his family moved to the Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York. “When I got to America,” Jean later told Ebony magazine, “I was expecting to see money falling from the sky.” But the Marlboro housing projects, where Jean and his family lived, didn’t quite meet with Jean’s initial expectations. The opportunities for Jean and his family, however, felt limitless compared to those available in their former home.

Wyclef, who spoke only Haitian French when he entered the states, quickly learned English from listening to American rap music. Music soon became one of Wyclef’s chief interests; his mother sensed his talent early, and gave him a guitar as a gift in the hopes of keeping him away from the local gang activity. The first song he learned to play was Steve Martin’s humorous spoof, “King Tut.”

In his early teens, Jean and his family moved to Newark, New Jersey, so that Gesner Jean could assume a post at the city’s Good Shepherd Church of the Nazarene. At Newark’s Vailsburg High School, Wyclef stayed focused on his passion for music. He majored in jazz, studied the ins and outs of the music business, and learned to play more than 15 instruments. Wyclef, along with his cousin Prakazrel Michel and friend Lauryn Hill, also started experimenting with hip-hop music. In order to afford studio time to record their original compositions, Jean saved up money from his job at an area McDonald’s.

Jean’s talent quickly came to the attention of music executives and, while he was still a minor, he was offered a recording contract. The deal fell through, however, because Jean’s father refused to condone his musical tastes. “When I’d come back from the studio, I’d get a whipping from my dad, ’cause I was playing devil’s music,” Jean later told Rolling Stone magazine.

Instead, Jean and Michel played for Vailsburg High School’s swing choir and formed a rap group called Exact Change, which rapped their positive message in six languages. Changing their name to Tranzlator Crew, they were signed to Columbia Records in 1993. After a legal dispute with another band named Translator, the group renamed themselves the Fugees, a shortened version of the word “refugees.” Their debut album, Blunted on Reality (1993), received warm reviews and sold moderately well. But it was their second album, The Score (1996), which catapulted the Fugees to international success. The Score sold over four million copies in the United States, and more than 15 million worldwide. In particular, the single “Killing Me Softly,” a remake of Roberta Flack’s 1970s hit, stayed at the top of the R&B singles chart for seven months.

The Fugees continued recording together, but they also began work on solo projects. Jean released and produced his album, The Carnival, in 1997, which explored the musical gamut, including a mix of Creole, salsa, reggae, Afro-Cuban, R&B, funk, rap and orchestral selections. The platinum-selling solo album received rave reviews from critics and was a smash-hit in Haiti. In 2000, he released his second solo effort, The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book, which featured musical guests such as Kenny Rogers and Mary J. Blige. In 2002, Jean released his next solo effort, Masquerade. This was followed by his Greatest Hits album and The Preacher’s Son, both in 2003. After a series of singles and musical collaborations, Jean announced that he would release an eponymous studio album in 2010.

Jean has also demonstrated his versatility as a performer by entering the world of acting. He appeared in four episodes of the TV drama, Third Watch,and appeared in two independent films, One Last Thing and Dirty. He also signed a deal with HBO to produce and star in a comedy series based on his life.

In addition, Jean branched out into philanthropy, founding his Yéle Haiti Foundation in 2005. The organization was originally founded to provide scholarships to children throughout the Republic of Haiti. In 2010, the nonprofit expanded its reach to include relief services to victims of the large-scale earthquake that wracked Haiti in January 2010.

In August 2010, Jean made headlines when he announced that he would be running for president of Haiti in the Caribbean country’s November 28 elections.

Jean is married to designer Marie Claudinette. They have one daughter, Angelina Claudinelle Jean, who they adopted in 2005. The family resides in New York City.

Haiti’s electoral board declared hip-hop singer Wyclef Jean ineligible to run for the country’s presidency on Friday evening. A list of 15 candidates received the news that they were ineligible, including Jean. While no explanation was given as to why Jean’s presidential bid was invalid, it is presumed that the star did not meet Haiti’s residency requirements.

Far from accepting the board’s pronouncement, Jean told reporters that he will go to a Haitian court Monday to appeal the decision. “We have met all the requirements set by the laws. And the law must be Respected,” Jean said Friday on Twitter.

Jean has not given specific reasons as to why he may not be considered a candidate, but he may have difficulty proving that he fulfills two of Haiti’s constitutional requirements. Firstly, he must own “at least one real property and have his habitual residence in the country,” and, secondly, he has to “have resided in the country for five (5) consecutive years before the date of the elections.” Jean was born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, and maintains a Haitian passport, but he has spent most of his life as a U.S. resident and does not currently have a permanent residence in Haiti.

On Sunday, Jean told reporters that he has a document “which shows everything is correct”, that he plans to show to the electoral board. He also said he felt that his current ineligibility “has everything to do with Haitian politics.”

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