An Immigrant's Story
Publication Date: September 1, 2011
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Wyclef Jean is one of the most influential voices in hip-hop. He rocketed to fame in the 1990s with the Fugees, whose multiplatinum album, The Score, would prove a landmark in music history, winning two Grammys and going on to become one of the bestselling hip-hop albums of all time. In Purpose, Wyclef recounts his path to fame from his impoverished childhood in "Baby Doc" Duvalier's Haiti and the mean streets of Brooklyn and Newark to the bright lights of the world stage.
The son of a pastor and grandson of a Vodou priest, Wyclef was born and raised in the slums of Haiti, moving with his family to New York when he was nine. He lived in Brooklyn's notorious Marlboro projects until his father, Gesner Jean, took them to Newark, where he converted a burnt-out funeral home into a house for his family and a church for his congregation. But life in New Jersey was no easier for Wyclef, who found it hard to shake his refugee status. Forced to act as a literal and cultural translator for his parents while still trying to master English himself, Wyclef soon learned that fitting in would be a constant struggle. He made his way by competing in "freestyle" rap battles, eventually becoming the best MC in his school. At the same time, Wyclef was singing in his father's choir and learning multiple instruments while also avidly exploring funk, rock, reggae, and jazzan experience that would forever shape his sound. When Wyclef chose to pursue a career in music over attending theological school, Gesner, who hated rap, nearly disowned him, creating a gulf between father and son that would take nearly a decade to bridge.
Within a few short years, Wyclef would catapult to international renown with the Fugees. In Purpose he details for the first time ever the inside story of the group: their rise and fall, and his relationships with Pras and Lauryn Hill.
Wyclef also looks back with candor at the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 and his efforts to help rebuild his homeland, including the controversy surrounding YÉle, his aid organization, and his exploratory bid for president of the island nation. The story revealed in Purpose is one of inspiration, full of drama and humor, told in compelling detail, about the incredible life of one of our most revered musical icons.
“[A] riveting memoir . . . Jean is candid in chronicling the drama of the music business and his heartfelt anguish for his homeland while struggling with success and commitment.”
“Jean’s passion for music, his fierce love for his family and for Lauryn Hill, his partner in the Fugees, and his deep and abiding devotion to his native country, Haiti, forcefully reach out and grab the reader.”