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Grammy Award-Winning Producer Wyclef Jean Shares His "Purpose" At Santa Monica’s Aero Theater

Courtney M. Fowler |
September 24, 2012 | 3:12 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Courtney Fowler/Neon Tommy)
(Courtney Fowler/Neon Tommy)

When considering who the biggest names are in the music industry, it’s obvious that no list would be complete without Haitian born, New Jersey bred superstar Wyclef Jean. To date Jean has sold millions of albums, produced major hits and is responsible for the careers of some of entertainment’s biggest artists including Destiny’s Child, Akon and former band mate Lauryn Hill. 

After catapulting to success and living the immigrant’s dream however, Jean made the decision to, “sacrifice himself” by running for president of his native country following the devastating events of the 2010 Haitian Earthquake

Since losing the bid for presidency, he’s gone on to pen his recently released memoir, “Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story.” On Sunday, he took to the stage of Santa Monica’s Aero Theater to talk about the book, the ups and downs of his both his music and political career and the lessons that he’s learned through his life.

Jean began the discussion talking about his experiences of being ridiculed for his political aspirations.

“There’s a phrase in my country, that if you want to get into politics, you have to have iron pants,” he told the crowd. “That means that whenever you decide that you want to go into politics you’re basically putting yourself in the service of the public so, 9 times out of 10 you’re going to be tormented and persecuted so you go into it because you know that you have to sacrifice yourself.”

As he continued, one of the direst questions surrounded Jean’s romantic relationship with songstress Lauryn Hill. The two reportedly had an affair during the span as members of rap group, The Fugees. Ultimately, despite the success of their second album “The Score” (which sold more than 17 million copies and garnered two Grammy Awards) personal issues related to the affair forced the group apart. 

“At one time Lauryn [Hill] was my muse,” he said. “The best way that I can explain it is that when God sends an angel to earth, that angel is just supposed to help the human being, but in this situation the angel fell in love with the human being and it’s forbidden. So, that’s how I think of my relationship with Lauryn; it was forbidden. It was beautiful, but it just wasn’t supposed to happen.”

However, despite the heights and pitfalls of success, Wyclef Jean attributes both his dedication and humbleness to a metaphor that he learned from his late father.

“Imagine a rich man pulls up in a limousine,” he said. “And he gets out and gives the beggar a dollar. He gets back in the limousine and it crashes. Minutes later, the beggar has a heart attack. And when he gets to heaven, the beggar is at the gate letting the man in the limousine in. So it’s that reminder that we’re all in one balance that keeps my feet grounded.”

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