Wyclef Jean Admits That He Thought Fans Wouldn’t “Dig” 1997 Album, “The Carnival”


Just a month after the 25th anniversary of his debut solo album, The Carnival, Wyclef Jean reflected on the making of the album, telling HipHopDX that he was worried people wouldn’t “dig” the record. The Carnival went on to be considered a classic album of the 1990s and earned Jean two nominations at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards.

When asked whether it was “scary” to present the experimental project to labels, Jean admitted: “Honestly, I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if people are going to dig this, because it’s sort of like, it was breaking all of the boundaries, too. So, think about it, when a group gets super successful, what the label says is, ‘Give us another one like that [laughs].’ And the Fugees are very unorthodox to that shit. I was like, ‘No, I got an idea. It’s this album, it’s in four languages and it has disco, it has country, et cetera. They’re like, ‘Man, what kind of mushrooms is this motherfucker on?’ It was so far from the norm to what was considered Hip Hop at the time. I remember a music programmer saying, ‘Where are you going to get this played?’ And I was like, ‘Well, let’s start off by urban stations,’ then he was like, ‘Well, urban stations are not going to play a Spanish song.’ I said, ‘Yes, they are.'”

Wyclef JEan
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Jean continued: “I was like, ‘Culturally, how can you … you’re separating us as humans,’ right, because think about it, I was fighting this fight when we didn’t have a streaming service. So, now, when you listen to The Carnival, you’re like, ‘Oh, shit, this shit sounds like a streaming service.’ I can go from a Hip Hop song, from boom bap to a Latin record, to a country record, to a disco record, you know what I’m saying? It was pretty confusing for the label, no matter what they said. It looked kind of strange.”

The Carnival went on to peak at number sixteen on the US Billboard 200 chart, and at number four on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The forward-thinking album blends elements of hip hop, reggae, folk, disco, soul, and more into its distinct sound.

Elsewhere in the interview, Jean discusses how John Travolta’s performance in Saturday Night Fever inspired him to sample the Bee Gees for “We Trying to Stay Alive?” taking accountability on “To All the Girls,” and more.


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