If I Were President: My Haitian Experience
Slick, political, and timely, this EP puts all of Wyclef Jean’s concerns into one short, sweet collection dripping with politics and a call to action. After decades of poverty, corruption, and brutal government, the Haitian Earthquake pushed Wyclef’s homeland into the world spotlight. A classic success story, Wyclef slipped into America and made a splash as a Grammy-winning rock star. With the Haitian elections disrupted by the shaking, he tried running for president but hadn’t lived there recently enough to qualify, and didn’t speak the local language. “If I Were President” offers his side of the story.
Opening the collection, we hear “Death Threats” with its bloody story of kidnappings and death threats. The Caribbean funky beat belies the brutality, and he lays out a potential domestic policy for his administration. “Earthquake” offers a rather naïve view of plate tectonics; he assigned the recent spate of mega temblors around the world to social and political conditions. It’s a nice song if you focus on the vocals. The upbeat and bouncy “Election Time” offers an easy-to-follow rap public service announcement, while the autobiographical “Haitian Experience” is the gem here, delving into the immigrant experience. Musically, it adds a jazz flush to his Rasta influence, fusing both into a Broadway sound styling. Wrapping up with “Prison for the K,” we go deep into the heart of Haiti, with a mysterious song presented in a smoky Creole.
While Jean’s political aspiration may be blunted, he’s still an exciting and timely musician, and this EP stands as his personal manifesto in the new decade.