Speaking with DancehallMag at The Compound Studio in Kingston, ahead of his presentation at the Island Music Conference in February, the Fugees founder revealed that he’s putting his heart into the project, one of five in a series he has planned for 2024.
“You want me to give you a big announcement?” he asked. “I’m here at Compound because next year I’m doing a series of like five albums, and one of these is gonna be my first Reggae/Dancehall album. The reason I came to Compound here is to start to catch a vibe…I love combinations. For this album, I’m very excited about what some of these mashup combinations will be.”
Wyclef Jean, who has collaborated with several Jamaican artists over the years, said he finally decided to produce a full-length Reggae album because he felt compelled to. He emphasized that the project is a labor of love, not a fleeting trend.
“A lot of people, they do these albums because of the opportunity. I love the music… I have to get inspired… I don’t do albums for the fashion or for the season; I do it for the feeling. When you hear it, you’re gonna feel a certain way and that’s ‘cause I’m putting my heart into it. I think I can do a nice Reggae and Dancehall album without it sounding like Snoop Lion,” he explained.
Snoop Dogg’s Reincarnated, which Pitchfork called an “ill-advised cultural safari that’s too weird to fly but too monied to fail,” peaked at No. 16 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart and spent 79 weeks on the Reggae Albums chart, including 36 weeks at No. 1. It was later nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
The album was released after Snoop’s purported conversion to Rastafari during a three-week trip to Jamaica, where he also declared himself a “reincarnation of Bob Marley” and adopted the moniker, Snoop Lion. Many Rastafarians — including Sizzla, who released the diss track Burn Out Smithsonians, and the late Bunny Wailer, who was dropped from the album — were of the view that Snoop was commercializing and mocking their community and symbolisms.
The 14-track album ultimately had only two collabs with Jamaicans (Lighters Up with Popcaan and Mavado and Fruit Juice with Mr. Vegas), and a series of collabs with Drake, Chris Brown, Busta Rhymes, T.I., Akon, Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora, and the rapper’s daughter Cori B.
Getting Reggae Right
In 2022, during a US Embassy Black History/Reggae Month “Star Spangled Sit Down” session, Billboard Magazine’s Pat Meschino was a straight-shooter in her assessment of Snoop’s album.
“That individual project, I feel that he could have involved a lot more Jamaican talent a lot more Jamaican writers, producers. If you are coming all the way to Jamaica and you are making this whole thing about you are now Snoop Lion and all this stuff I would have loved to see a lot more Jamaican involvement in that project. So, it depends on who the artists are and how deeply they want to go into the music,” Meschino said.
She cited the late Irish singer Sinead O’Connor as the perfect example of an artist who immersed herself in Jamaican culture and collaborated with, toured with, and honored some of the finest Reggae musicians when she produced her album, Throw Down Your Arms.
“How she [O’Connor] embraced the culture, Sly and Robbie not only produced and played on it, they toured with her. The show I saw in New York, Burning Spear played percussion with the band. It was just amazing,” Meschino recounted.
“And she dug into the catalogues of the Abyssinians; just went really deep into some of the songs that she chose to cover, that being a good example of someone who really did it right. Like they went beyond just talking about I am gonna do this Reggae project and really reached out to the genre’s most celebrate musicians and producers and some of the greatest songs within the Reggae catalogue and decided to work them over and did a great job with it,” she added. “You can feel the difference when someone is deeply invested in the music in the culture as opposed to as opposed to oh, I am just at this point in my career, what haven’t I tried? There is a very different approach which means two very different way of going about it.”
Wyclef Hails Masicka, Teejay, and Chronic Law
Wyclef was tight-lipped about the collaborations to expect on his album. However, he noted that, while no artist will ever supersede Bob Marley, Dancehall artists Masicka, TeeJay, and Chronic Law are his favorite modern acts from Jamaica.
“[In terms of] versatility, Masicka, TeeJay… like, when I say that they can go from one style to another—I’ve seen it happen. Then, the person that I listen to when I’m in the gym that gives me a pump to do my 300 pushups is Chronic Law,” he told DancehallMag. “Chronic Law, I can relate to him because I have a lot of people who are from the streets who have changed their lives around, and I like that pain and let you know that it can get better. I think we need those kind of records.”
The Sweetest Girl rapper’s choice of these artists is no surprise, given their accomplishments.
In two years, Masicka has released two Billboard-charting albums, including one under Def Jam, while TeeJay made his mark with Drift, a 2023 summer hit that earned him a Warner Records deal and a Billboard debut. Chronic Law has captivated Jamaican audiences with his distinct ‘Faada Dawk’ persona, securing a place among the island’s most streamed artists on YouTube for several years running.
Wyclef’s most successful Reggae project thus far is No Woman, No Cry, a cover of the Bob Marley & The Wailers’ song of the same name, which has racked up over 75 million plays on Spotify. It appeared on The Fugees Grammy Award-winning album, The Score, released in 1996.
For his 2003 album The Preacher’s Son, Wyclef tapped Buju Banton for the tracks Who Gave The Order and Party By The Sea, and Wayne Wonder and Elephant Man for the track I Am Your Doctor. In 2007, for his CARNIVAL VOL. II…Memoirs of an Immigrant album, he recruited Sizzla for the tracks Riot and Welcome To The East, and Tony Matterhorn and Elephant Man for the track China Wine.
In 2010, he collaborated with Mavado on the single Hold On; then, in 2020, he teamed up with Dre Island for Justice, which appeared on the Jamaican singer’s Now I Rise album.
Island Music Conference 2024
Wyclef Jean, who hosted the inaugural Caribbean Music Awards in New York last August and has previously performed at Sting and the Shaggy and Friends events, will return to Jamaica for a presentation at the second annual Island Music Conference [IMC] on February 23, 2024, where he’ll speak on the importance of music licensing.
“What I would like to do is prepare a mood board because the generation is very visual [and] saying is one thing, but comparing it to things that are already on applications that you use whether it’s Instagram or different things. You know, like, I’m getting money for stuff that’s in French and Creole every time someone puts it on TikTok. It’s like, why are you just doing music for the radio? You can get doing music for the movies, for commercials… these are all licenses. So, I wanna have proof of concepts,” he said.