Commencement Speaker - Wyclef Jean
Born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Wyclef Jean lived on the island of Haiti until the age of 13 when his family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. He later lived in northern New Jersey. A singer-songwriter who also plays guitar, piano and drums, Jean began his music career as a member of The Refugee Camp (The Fugees) with Lauryn Hill and fellow Haitian immigrant Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, his cousin. The Fugees released “Blunted on Reality,” which peaked at No. 62 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart in 1994, and “The Score,” which became a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning album in 1996. A Greatest Hits album was released in 2003.
Jean launched his solo career in 1997 with the release of “Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival Featuring the Refugee All-Stars.” His albums that followed included “The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book” in 2000, “Masquerade” in 2002, “The Preacher’s Son” in 2003 and “Sak Pasé Presents: Welcome to Haiti” in 2004, which features many songs in his native language of Haitian Creole.
During the past decade, Jean has produced and written songs for several documentaries and major motion pictures, including “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Agronomist” and “Ghosts of Cite Soleil,” as well as collaborative songwriting and recording efforts with rap and R&B artists including T.I., Lil’ Wayne, Niia, Akon, will.i.am and Ludacris. In 2007, he released “Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant.” The EP “From the Hut, to the Projects, to the Mansion” was released in 2009 with Jean using the alias Toussaint St. Jean, his rap moniker. An eponymous studio album is expected to be released this year.
Jean established the Yelé Haiti Foundation in 2005 after the devastation caused by Hurricane Jeanne. The organization has continued to provide assistance to Haitians in the aftermath of the recent earthquake.