Wyclef Jean Thanks President Obama on Behalf of Hip-Hop
After eight years in office, President Obama, the most hip-hop friendly U.S. president of all time, will be ending his term. Here, Wyclef Jean offers deep gratitude on behalf of hip-hop.
Words: Wyclef Jean
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Dear President Obama,
It’s definitely personal to me because I remember when I first met you, you were still a senator. And I think we was at a Black Caucus event and I remember you said, “Michelle, Michelle! Tell Wyclef what I be training to. Tell him what’s on my iPod right now.” And she was like, “The Carnival.” So, thank you for bumping The Carnival. Once you bumped The Carnival, I definitely knew you would be a president full of nothing but culture. So we gon’ get into it. And, of course I want to thank you, first of all, on behalf of the entire hip-hop community. And if anybody could put the Fugees back together, it’s you because you’re perfect at negotiating.
And speaking of thank yous, one of the early moments I definitely remember is Jeezy with the song “My president is Black.” Once he rocked that, you know, we just felt like, we all felt like we definitely was part of the culture. And as an incredible—I can’t even call you like a politician, I’ll call you a statesman leader—who understands the culture, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen was when you referenced Jay Z’s “Go and rub your shoulders off.” And the other politicians, they ain’t have a clue what you was doing. It was sort of like you was talking in encrypted language to just us, you know what I mean? And understanding that. So, definitely thank you for that.
You opened the door to rappers, I mean, like never before coming to the White House. Here’s a small story for you, President Obama. I remember being in Norway; me, Will Smith, Jada [Pinkett Smith]. And, this was a very important part because this was when you was getting the Nobel Peace Prize and just being out there, it just hit me. Like, you have to pinch yourself. And also Esperanza [Spalding] who was performing, rocking the bass and Will was just...I remember, like, Will Smith, we was just having a real deep conversation about the time that we in and how important and how crucial it was that you were president. Just sitting there with Jada and Will, it just felt like, so surreal. And we knew, you know? And I can speak for myself, that this was a time in history that we had to seize within a lightning bolt because we knew before we saw it again, it would take a very long time. And what you did was you knew that, so you gave us access, and thank you for the access.
And also President Obama, what I loved about you is you definitely checked us. Whenever you felt like a rapper was out of line, or whatever, you basically nudged it and you actually spoke about it. I actually think that you was the only president that actually took it all personal. You know, you have way bigger issues to be worried about than to be worried about what we saying and how we moving. So, through you, we’ve learned to conduct ourselves in a certain way. I ain’t gonna front, sometimes I might feel like doing something, and be like, “Obama ain’t gonna like this, so I ain’t gonna do it.” Which is an excellent thing that you have put inside of us, so thank you for that.
Also President Obama, I’d like to thank you on behalf of the people of my country of Haiti, and being an ex-presidential candidate, there’s no way in my mind that I would ever think that I could ever be president of a country if it was not for you. So, thank you for not only inspiring us musically, but giving us the inspiration and through books to understand that anything we wanna be, we can be. Also thank you for not judging us. For letting us know that we will make mistakes and letting us know that we will fall, and it’s not about the fall but it’s about the rise. Watching you and what you’ve taught us is that we have to be ready for the days ahead. So, on behalf of the entire hip-hop community, myself Wyclef Jean, [on] behalf of my group the Fugees, the country of Haiti, my millions of fans that follow me around the entire world—we are huge fans of yours—thank you President Obama, from your boy from Haiti, Wyclef Jean.
And now that you opened up Cuba, you know Cuba’s right next to Haiti, so feel free when you in Cuba, you wanna come over to Haiti, holla at your boy ‘cause I know you a real dude. Respect President Obama. Obama out.
Check out more from XXL’s Winter 2016 issue including our Travis Scott cover story interview, Lin-Manuel Miranda's success with the hip-hop musical Hamilton, Eye Candy The Real Chela's Way and more.
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