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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Wyclef Jean: Spreading the message
Wyclef Jean
Wyclef Jean: "I'm a revolutionary"

The recording studio shakes with a deep bass beat as Wyclef Jean blasts a track off his new album.

Jean looks like every bit the hip-hop star - but not necessarily an activist who was recently in trouble with the law.

Just last week Jean was one of 13 people arrested while protesting proposed budget cuts in the New York City education system.

It is the latest cause celèbre here. Some 20,000 students and stars, including P Diddy and Alicia Keys, were at the rally organised by Russell Simmons, of Def Jam Records, and his Hip-Hop Action Network.

Alicia Keys joined Jean at the demo
"I got a call from Russell Simmons and he said that the mayor was cutting back $1bn dollars on public schools and I felt that was the craziest thing I ever heard," he says.

"I went down there and the kids were goin' all crazy. They see celebrities and they go crazy.

"So one cop came and he yells 'I don't care who you are, move to the other side', so we calmly moved to the side.

"So he came back and said 'we're taking no more celebrities on the podium, now get out of here', and I was just like, I ain't goin' no where until I speak on behalf of the kids.


Did Rosa Parks set a good example when she said she wouldn't go to the back of the bus?

Wyclef Jean
"I guess he wanted to see how serious I was so he was like 'I'll have you arrested right now' and I just stared him down. Next thing you know, they cuffed me and took me to prison.

"But he wouldn't say I resisted arrest because I just turned around and put my hands behind my back. If that's disorderly conduct, I don't know what to tell you. But the good thing is sometimes silence is louder than words."

Wyclef Jean is not the first celebrity to be incarcerated for disorderly conduct while demonstrating for this issue.

Sex in the City star Cynthia Nixon was arrested at a previous rally and is due in court on 19 June.

Prison

New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and the City Council are still working to reach an agreement on the $41.8bn education budget.

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon: Due to face the judge over protest
Although he only spent a few hours in jail, Jean thinks the arrest was arrest was worth it and that he sets a good example for children.

"Did Rosa Parks set a good example when she said she wouldn't go to the back of the bus? Did Martin Luther King set a good example when he went to prison?

"I didn't go to prison for no drugs, no guns, or whatever. I went to prison because I believe they shouldn't cut the budget... when it comes for protesting for the right cause, that's what I'm all about. I'm a revolutionary. "

Now Jean has another message to spread - he wants people to buy his third solo album since he shot to fame as a member of the Fugees in the early '90s.

World issues

"Masquerade is just life. I did the album two months after I lost my father. The album is an autobiography of my life, before Wyclef was Wyclef Jean.

P Diddy and Jennifer Lopez
P Diddy also joined the 20,000 demonstrators
"It's important to let the the kids know how I got this far. I show them the maze of the projects and the ghetto where I'm from, and how you can get up outta there and make somethin' of yourself.

"So it talks about gettin' out of the projects, hookin' up with the Fugees, becomin' a producer, and world issues.

"We also gotta a song called War No More." That song focuses on life after 11 September.

On a lighter note, one surprise on the album is Jean's collaboration with veteran Welsh singer Tom Jones.

"We did a 2004 version of What's New Pussycat with my man Tom Jones - he's the most insane."

Masquerade is released in the US on 18 June.

See also:

15 Mar 02 | Entertainment
11 Apr 02 | Entertainment
09 Sep 99 | In Depth
25 Sep 01 | Entertainment
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