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Haitian-born Wyclef Jean is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter/musician/producer, humanitarian, Goodwill Ambassador to Haiti, and founder of Yele Haiti. A founding member of the pioneering hip-hop group Fugees and prolific solo artist, Wyclef has effortlessly crossed genres, generations and geographic boundaries with his music.
Wyclef's musical journey began in Haiti where he sang in his father's church at the age of three. At the age of 10, he moved to the United States where he formed his first serious musical collaboration, the Tranzlator Crew, in 1987, with his New Jersey classmates Lauryn Hill and Pras Michel. By 1994, the Tranzlator Crew had become the Fugees and the group enjoyed its first critical acclaim with its debut album, Blunted On Reality.
The Fugees sophomore album, 1996's The Score, became a full-blown cultural phenomenon reaching the #1 slot on Billboard's Top 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums charts. It produced three hit singles, "Fu-Gee-La," "Killing Me Softly With His Song," and "Ready Or Not," and earned two Grammys: Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals ("Killing Me Softly With His Song") and Best Rap Album. The Score went on to become the world's #1 top-selling hip-hop album of all-time, selling more than 19 million copies globally and still counting.
In 1997, the next move for this gifted writer and producer was to embark upon a solo career. Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival Featuring The Refugee All-Stars earned him a Grammy nomination. Five other albums followed with 2000's The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II A Book, 2002's Masquerade 2003's autobiographic The Preacher's Son, 2004's Welcome To Haiti: Creole 101, marked his most radical artistic and musical statement. It was during this period that he had made his first visit back to his homeland since childhood.
His talents as a producer and collaborator have led to a myriad of successful projects over the past two decades. Those include recording with Bono ("New Day"), writing and producing Carlo Santana's Supernatural, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year, Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love," and "Hips Don't Lie," his Grammy-nominated international smash hit duet with Shakira which earned him the #1 Top 40 airplay record of all time.
Wyclef's sixth album, Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant, featured the platinum-selling "Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)," his first Top 10 single as a solo artist.
In 2008, Wyclef wrote and recorded an anthemic new song, "Venus (I'm Ready)," inspired by the spirit, character and prowess of American tennis champion Venus Williams. "Venus (I'm Ready)" premiered Venus Williams' theme music during the 2008 US Open tennis tournament. The two were then paired for an episode of Iconoclasts, the groundbreaking Sundance Channel original television series, which brings together two leading innovators from different fields to discuss their passions and creative processes.
Also in 2008, Wyclef participated in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) where he attended panel discussions and spoke about his native Haiti. In 2009, Wyclef participated in several balls in Washington DC during the Presidential Inauguration, including the Mid-Atlantic Ball; and performed at the 16th annual Nobel Peace Prize Concert, in Oslo, Norway, to honor laureate Barack Obama, President of the United States of America.
In 2005, Wyclef Jean created Yele Haiti to provide aid and assistance to his native Haiti. Yele Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment. Their community service programs include food distribution and mobilizing emergency relief. Yele was coined by Wyclef in a song and means "a cry for freedom." The organization has been garnering international attention for its work including being featured in the Associated Press, USA Today, CNN, Fox News, NBC's Today show, and on 60 Minutes. After the devastating earthquake in January 2010, all programs now focus on the relief and reconstruction of the island nation.
"The greatest accomplishment is giving hope to young kids," says Wyclef. "Yele Haiti allows kids to dream and it's been a minute in Haiti since the kids had good dreams. Their dreams have been nightmares. That's what got me here, dreaming. The objective of Yele Haiti is to restore pride and a reason to hope, and for the whole country to regain the deep spirit and force that is part of our heritage."