Wyclef Jean’s new memoir Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story (It Books; $26.99) is a candid look into his Haitian heritage and family life, and—for the first time—he goes into detail about his controversial affair with fellow Fugees member Lauryn Hill.
The book offers up peaks and valleys in the multi-platinum selling artist’s life including funny behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the music industry and the sobering death of his father just days before 9/11.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Wyclef to discuss his new book and his current relationship with the other Fugees, Pras and Lauryn Hill.
BlackEnterprise.com: You book is incredibly candid and revealing. What prompted you to write this book right now?
Wyclef Jean: I always say it’s my age. I needed to be at least 40. I knew I wanted to write about my life, but I didn’t think I would really have anything to say if I was 30-something. There are seven books I want to write before I leave this earth.
Seven books? Ok, that’s ambitious. What will the other six books be about?
The next one will be a political spoof called They Tried to J Edgar Hoover Me and it’s about my bid to become president of Haiti. Another one will be a chronicle of the Bible books and then picking the books and how I see the verses a certain way.
The big issue in the news is the Lauryn Hill relationship, which you have never talked about so extensively in public before. Of course you are still with your wife and you two have moved passed that, but it must have been painful for you and your wife to revisit that for this book.
That wasn’t the most painful part for me. Talking about my dad’s death was the hardest part. But, everything in the book is basically a year, so I had to go back to those years. Going back to the Lauryn situation wasn’t that hard because I understand more and the mindset I was in. When I go back to 26, 27, I know who I was then. There are men known and unknown who are in the same situation, but just don’t talk about it. I decided to talk about it; I’m able to apologize publically.
You said writing about your dad was the hardest part. In the book you talk about the guilt you have associated with that. How have you been able to cope?
Writing this book is part of that. There’s something about writing that provides closure. It’s like I’m able to breathe.
There are so many little moments in your book, how did you go about mining for that information in your memory banks?
It was hard. It’s kind of like when you’re in a movie and you’re playing a character. When you’re a method actor, you have to channel that emotion by going back to a place that lets you connect with that moment. So I had to emotionally go back to all those moments.
You are a writer, so what was it like collaborating with Anthony Bozza for this project?
Having Anthony was like having a psychologist as I wrote this. It was important. He would ask tough questions and make me go back to certain time periods.