Latin Grammys 2018

New Label Fits Jean Fine

Excerpted from the magazine for

After three solo albums and sales of more than 3 million units, Wyclef Jean decided it was time for a musical change in direction and a new label to take that shift home.

"I just wanted to focus on music," Jean says. "I don't have a format to my madness. I'm not the kind of cat that finds out what beats are rocking in the clubs and then finds their producers [to make those beats for me] to put my voice over. If something is getting 100 spins on the radio, I don't want to have to adjust to that sound. I have the Clef sound. It's a very rebel sound. Sometimes, that conflicts with a company. A company is looking for you to do a certain thing, but I did that already.

"Where my head space is at now, and with everything that's going on in the world, all I could do was look up to people like Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, [Bob] Marley and Jimi Hendrix," he adds. "The music that they did transcended time. So I decided to focus on albums that transcend time and [will] still mean something 200 years from now."

Jean, whose first three albums were released on Columbia, inked an imprint deal with Clive Davis' J Records in 2000 for his Clef Records. The Nov. 4 release of "The Preacher's Son" is his debut for Clef/J Records.

Jean's track record with Davis is impressive. The two first worked together on "Maria, Maria," the second single from Santana's "Supernatural." The single spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100.

Davis and Jean later re-teamed for the title track to Whitney Houston's 1998 album, "My Love Is Your Love." That single peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100.

"We established a bond and a friendship that was both personally and professionally rewarding," RCA Music Group chairman Clive Davis says. "We've just always connected, and when this opportunity came, it was a no-brainer for me to believe in him and his unique creativity."

With a list of guest appearances that includes Patti LaBelle, Elephant Man, Santana and Missy Elliott -- not to mention the influence of Davis -- you could draw comparisons between "The Preacher's Son" and Santana's "Supernatural."

But Jean begs to differ.

"As a songwriter, I always loved to work with artists," he explains. "I'm a songwriter first. So, every time I write a song, I never think of me singing it. I think of me playing the guitar and just vibing. So I always think of who would be perfect for the song.

"In that aspect, all my albums are event albums," he adds. "All of them have mad guests on them. So, I wouldn't really say it was like 'Supernatural,' but in the sense of an event record I could see why people might say that. And any time I'm compared to Carlos Santana is a compliment to me."

With a new label home, Jean also has full confidence in the album.

"You always want a record to do well," Jean says. "I want everyone to pick up 'The Preacher's Son.' I don't give a f*** if you get it from cyborg-net, or bootleggers in Newark or if you physically go and pick it up in a store; it's one of them joints that you need to put on right before you go to sleep.

"Instead of putting on the TV in that last hour before you go to sleep, put on 'The Preacher's Son,' because that s*** is a mini-movie in itself."

Excerpted from the Nov. 8, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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