As I began to wrap up flag football practice with my kids last Thursday afternoon, I received the most random text message from my wife:
“down to go to a wyclef concert tonight?”
“hells yeah,” I replied.
However, my blackberry battery was too low to send the reply. Needless to say, my end-of-practice speech was super short and sweet. Not inspiring at all.
I needed to get to a working phone so that I could talk to my wife. It did not cross my mind to ask my kids, instead, I rushed them back to the school (safely of course) and dashed to my classroom to charge my phone.
“I’m down baby, I’ll be home by 7 ,” I replied back, nearly 20 minutes later.
I hoped that I was not too late.The concert was at City Winery in Tribeca. Consequently, I would have to travel all the way Uptown and back (I work in Brooklyn, but live in Harlem-kind of). It’s going to be a rough Friday morning, I thought to myself, but tonight, we are young.
I don’t know how we got the hook-up, but we had the best seats in the house. We were literally sitting inches away from the stage.
I have been a fan of the Fugees since 1994, “Hey Mona Lisa, can I get a date on Friday…?” We would listen to Fugee La for hours. My neighbor Lory had the disc single (remember those). We used to listen to the clean version, explicit version, remix and instrumental, all day, “We used to be number ten, now we comin’ in at one…” while sitting in her living room playing Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat (finish him) on her little brother’s Sega Genesis.
When I got my first job at Bennigan’s in 1997, I used to kill the Karnival album. It was about a 20 minute bike ride from my house to work. I actually used to have a walkman (casette player). I’d blast those last two Kompa tracks, while riding my bike with no hands down 36th street (back home in Miami).
That was almost 20 years ago. Wow!
Now I’m living in New York City and finally getting a chance to see him perform live for the first time. I had always heard about how talented Clef was and how great his performances were. But nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes.
The Score and The Karnival are two of my favorite albums. However, the reason why I will always be a Wyclef fan is because he played a huge role in helping me to embrace Haitian heritage and to be okay with being Haitian, in a time when being Haitian was not en vogue or cool. Before the earthquake, before the Clintons and before Sean Penn, people made fun of Haitians. They made fun of our parents, our language and our culture.
We were not respected, but Clef transcended all that by letting the whole planet know that he was Haitian and number 1 on the music charts. He made songs in Kreyol; my mother’s language. I used to be embarrassed to admit that I understood it. Now I am proud that I can actually speak it. He draped the Haitian Flag over his shoulders as the Fugees received Best Rap Album of the Year at the MTV Music Awards and every Haitian kid understood what that meant. We were all proud of that moment and the whole world saw it with us.
Wyclef may not be perfect in his private life, business deals or political affairs, but as an entertainer and visionary, he can never be touched .
“Thanks for the performance last night Clef. It was awesome! And thanks for the tickets bae.”
I will never forget the night I told Wyclef it was only 9:30 p.m. when it was actually 10:45 p.m., so he would continue performing, and when his band exited the stage, I was the one who incited the encore, and they came back to play one more time.