Gone Till November? Nope, Wyclef is back!
“Coming back into music is like drinking water, it’s a natural thing,” Jean, 47, tells PEOPLE. “It’s a space of belonging.”
But he didn’t always feel that way. Nearly a decade ago the former Fugees frontman and Shakira‘s “Hips Don’t Lie” collaborator decided to take a step back from the music scene. “It was like when John Lennon left The Beatles for a minute and he went to just try and find himself,” says Jean. “I don’t think people understand when you say ‘It’s lonely at the top.'”
The decision to take time off coincided with his highly publicized run for president of Haiti in 2010, following the earthquake that devastated his birth country. “Besides losing my father, the hardest thing I could have ever done was going into the space of politics,” he says. Not long after announcing his candidacy, Jean was deemed ineligible for office, due to his not residing in the country.
“It was really a dark space, but for me, within the course of history I had to sacrifice myself like that for my country. I don’t feel like I got defeated. I feel like even though they took me out of the race, the part that they don’t talk about is what was it that I was fighting for.” Says Jean, “Me running gave so much attention that today we have a younger government in the country. To know that I was part of that cycle change, to me was the most important.”
Despite the ordeal taking a toll on him, he says it was something he did for his country, and for himself.
“Through the years I’ve watched some of my peers have drug overdoses, I’ve lost certain people through suicide, just different things, so it really comes to a point in your life where you’ll be like, ‘Ok, you’re responsible for 100 million records but what have you really done as a person? Like what’s the purpose?'” says Jean.
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As for the current political climate in America, he says he’ll never retire from trying to make a difference.
“These United States of America are what make me who I am and I have a serious love for the communities where I come from, like growing up in the projects, watching failed policies and seeing how I got out and thinking how can I help other kids get out,” says Jean. “As I get older wanting to do something is part of my DNA.”
But these days the musician, who lives in New Jersey with wife Claudinette, daughter Angelina and the family’s poodle, says he’s happy to get back to the music that started it all. Says Jean, “It feels like I haven’t missed a beat.”