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Wyclef Jean’s Memoir ‘Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story’: Just the Juicy Parts

Wyclef Jean / Photo by Cyrille Margarit

Between now and the end of the year, a gaggle of rock, hip-hop, and pop icons will wade into the memoir game, hoping to follow in the artful — and lucrative — footsteps of Keith Richards, whose Life, kicked off the music star autobiography boom in 2010. Unfortunately, the law of averages dictates that most of these books won’t be nearly as good as Keef’s. So to save you some time, and help you make your buying decisions, we’ll be summarizing the juiciest tidbits. First up, Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story (It Books), by erstwhile Fugee and controversial humanitarian Wyclef Jean.

Not Over the Hill
The book doesn’t stint on Jean’s relationship with his former bandmate, the reclusive Lauryn Hill. “The minute I saw Lauryn Hill,” writes Jean about meeting the singer for the first time, “I couldn’t believe my eyes.” Later, he explains that his relationship between Hill provided the animating force behind the band’s 1996 classic The Score. “There was love in that music, too, the love between Lauryn and me. We had become a real couple, even though I was with someone else at the time. It didn’t matter; she and I had our own musical and romantic language. That’s why [The Score] touched people; that’s why it’s so real.”

Two Timin’
That “someone else” Jean writes about is his wife, Claudinette. As you might expect, going out with the singer in his band while being married set off some dangerous sparks. But Clef is only sort of contrite. “It’s hard to explain, but I was in love with both of them. I was torn between the impossible love affair, the whirlwind artist romance, and the solid, good woman who demanded respect.” As for how Hill felt about the situation? “Lauryn would keep it all inside and act like she was cool and we would be together … and then, bam, she’d explode without warning.”

Baby Daddy Drama
Jean gets frazzled when the baby that Hill is carrying turns out not to be his, but instead belongs to Rohan Marley. “When Lauryn gave birth, I learned the truth: the child wasn’t mine, it was Rohan Marley’s. And in that moment something died between us. I was married and Lauryn and I were having an affair, but she had led me to believe that the baby was mine, and I couldn’t forgive that.”

An Affair to Remember
Even post-Fugees, Jean had problems staying faithful. He addresses a particularly public bout of infidelity with his then-manager. “There was the issue of a naked picture [of his manager] she sent me that Claudinette intercepted. My wife found it on my BlackBerry and then asked me if I had been involved with this woman sexually at all … my wife was a woman scorned.” He concludes that “my mixing business with pleasurable was miserable.”

Biggie’s Ups
Despite all the extra-musical shenanigans, Jean shares the joy of being in an up-and-coming group. One of his favorite moments occurs when Biggie Smalls cedes the headlining spot of a show to the Fugees. He recalls Biggie as saying: “What you think is going to happen after you ccome out with all these cheap tricks and cymbals and shit and get the people excited running around making noise like you do? I’m just going to stand there and do my songs? You’ll be banging on all that shit and take the crowd with you. I’m going first.” Jean explains, “We were flatted because Biggie was such a huge talent, man … This was too much for us to hear him say that we were too good to go on first.”

Respect Pras
Though the Fugees-related parts of the book focus primarily on his relationship with Hill, Jean has kind words for Pras Michel, the least-heralded member of the trio. “Nobody should underestimate Pras. He was the visionary who saw the talent coming together … People also underestimate his ear. In the studio he added so many small ideas that made the music what it is.”

Time Doesn’t Always Heal
Jean is aware that his old bandmate harbors resentment towards him for the Fugees’ dissolution. “Pras is someone who definitely blames me for the Fugess breaking up . . . Pras has made it clear to that he thinks I’m responsible … I understand that, but I don’t think he’s asking himself the most important question: if he were the one in my shoes, would he have thought twice about doing what I did?”

Mea Culpa (Kind of)
After a catrastrophic earthquake in his home nation in 2010, Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation was one of the most prominent charitable organizations to get involved. But it was dogged by accusations of mismanagement and misappropriating funds. “Why would I do any of this?” argues Jean. “I have a watch collection worh $5000,000. I would never need to take money from my own charity to cover operating costs like that.”

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up, Fugees Fans
A reunion is unlikely. “I never say never, but I don’t think we’ll be able to get the Fugees back together. I’d like to, but I think the magic is gone once and for all.”