“I like to go against the grain, against what’s out there. Every day is like a challenge.”
The head honcho of the legendary hip hop group The Fugees, Wyclef Jean has had a number of hits with the group and as a solo artist, but if you want to know how he made his ten million dollar fortune, a lot of it comes from his work as a songwriter and a producer. That’s where the real royalty checks are. He has worked with everyone from Shakira to Whitney Houston, and that’s probably why you’ll see him driving around in a one point four million dollar Pagani Zonda C12.
Grandson of a Voodoo Priest
Although Wyclef was barred from running for president of Haiti in 2010, the truth is he’s about as Haitian as it gets. Born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haitiin in 1969, he emigrated at nine years old to Brooklyn and then Newark with his family. While still a kid, Wyclef was already exploring music. His influences in his childhood included reggae artists like Bigga Haitian, and local rap icons like MC Tiger Paw Raw. His mother bought him a guitar in his early teens, and the result was a unique blend of hip-hop, reggae, Haitian and folk music. It was distinctly American, distinctly urban, but equal parts island funk and soul.
The Fugees began in the 1980s under the name of the Tranzlator Crew. After signing with Ruffhouse and Columbia in 1993, they decided to change their name to Fugees, a shortened version of refugees, owing to their status as Haitian immigrants. Their debut album, Blunted on Reality (1994) was not a major hit, only climbing about halfway up the top one hundred R&B and Hip Hop charts. In the UK it failed to crack the top one hundred, peaking at 122. The album did spawn the single “Nappy Heads” (1994). Not a major hit, but reaching number 49 on the Hot 100, it was a start.
The group’s follow-up album, on the other hand, was an instant smash hit. The Score (1996) hit the number one spot on the Billboard 200, and wound up receiving six platinum records from the RIAA. The album’s lead single “Fu-Gee-La” (1996) peaked at number 29 on the Hot 100, earning a gold record, but it was “Killing Me Softly” (1996) that really set the world on fire. “Ready or Not” (1996) was another radio-standard at the time, playing constantly on R&B and pop stations and the videos receiving plenty of screentime on MTV and VH1. However, these singles actually failed to chart. Not because they were not hit songs, but because they were not actually released for commercial sale. Had they been sold in stores as singles, it is easy to imagine that Wyclef would have a few more platinum records hanging on his wall right now.
Following the release of The Score, Wyclef Jean started to explore a career as a solo artist, beginning with a collaborative album, Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival Featuring the Refugee All-Stars (1997). The album was not quite a full solo debut, featuring contributions from fellow Fugees Lauryn Hill and Pras, along with several other artists, but it showed the world what Wyclef could do with the freedom to frontline his own projects. Wyclef’s true solo debut would come a few years later with The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book (2000), featuring guest spots for Kenny Rogers, Mary J. Blige and even The Rock. The album’s leading single, “911” (2000) with Blige, became one of the defining songs of the year.
Soon Wyclef was producing songs for film soundtracks, including “Million Voices” for Hotel Rwanda (2004) and a cover of “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival for The Manchurian Candidate (2004). Every singer and rapper in the industry was hoping to collaborate with Wyclef, with “Hips Don’t Lie” (2006) in particular becoming a major hit for Wyclef and Shakira.
This is all to say that, if you ever want to make it in music, it’s all about the back catalog. That’s how you collect the royalties that will put you behind the wheel of a seven figure sports car.
When you drop a million plus dollars on a sports car, there’s a tendency to want to get the absolute newest model. But when it comes to the Pagani Zonda it seems that car collectors all have their favorite year. These cars age like wine, and Wyclef’s Zonda is the debut model, the C12, launched in 1999.
The C12 hits sixty miles an hour in just four seconds, and one hundred in nine point two. The first run of the C12 saw only five cars being built, with one being used as a show car, and one being used for crash testing before being restored to join the other for presentation. This means only three of the original C12s ever made it to into the garages of buyers.
A two door, 6.0 liter M120 V12 with a six speed manual transmission, hand-built in Modena, Italy and designed by the legendary Horacio Pagani, the car was named for the hot air current found over Argentina, “Zonda wind.” In total, only one hundred forty Zondas have been built to this day.
Wyclef’s personal garage boasts a number of rare and expensive cars, many of them totally customized, including a McLaren F1, and a decked out 2002 Hummer H2, but the Zonda C12 has to be the coolest car in the rapper’s collection.
“I feel that life is short, so we should be disciplined, but at the same time we should have a good time.”