Wyclef Jean is protesting his exclusion from the upcoming presidential election in Haiti the only way he knows how: by releasing a song.
The former Fugees leader posted a new track called “Prizon Pou K.E.P.A.” (which translates into “Prison for the CEP”) on Wednesday, in which he compares the rigorous scrutiny he faced to a child receiving a failing report card. The title is a pointed reference to the Haitian election commission, CEP, which ruled that he was not eligible to run for office in his birth nation.
“I am contesting, I am going to the court, I am contesting/ I don’t agree, I am contesting, I am going to the court, I am contesting,” Wyclef sings. “Look, they gave Wyclef a report card/ They say Wyclef, you don’t speak Creole/ You are the Diaspora’s candidate.”
Over a subtle, skittering beat and gently picked acoustic guitar, ’Clef, 40, sings about his disappointment in the ruling in the island’s native language of Creole.
“Even my own Haitians curse me out on Facebook when they hear I want to be president,” he says before calling out former bandmate Pras for the Fugees member’s negative reaction to Wyclef’s attempts. “Even my friends say to give Wyclef a report card/ Even the Catholic priests are surprised, they told me to leave Tigoav, come to Les Cayes/ All weekend I was celebrating Our Lady [Notre Dame].”
His tone is sedate and conversational for most of the tune, but at just past the two-minute mark, he breaks into a Bob Marley-like wail, during which his vocals take on a pained, urgent quaver.
The decision to pour out his heart in Creole in the nearly four-minute song is a pointed bid to speak directly to the Haitian people, as well as a possible winking rebuke to actor Sean Penn , who wrote a stinging column for the Huffington Post this week questioning ’Clef’s motives in his failed presidential bid, as well as his fluency in the island nation’s two main languages: French and Creole.
Jean has pointed words for the nation’s current president as well, René Préval, chiding him, “Some militants say it’s a deal that I made with Préval/ I didn’t make a deal with Préval/ It’s [the] president who asked to see a candidate/ I could not refuse/ I said that I was going back to La Serre/ When I arrived, he offered me coffee/ He wanted to assure my friendship/ He said: ’You are a good candidate’/ He put me on the phone with [presidential candidate] Jude Celestin/ We had a very good convo/ After that, Préval f—ing gave me a report card.”
He blasts the president, saying he voted for him in 2006 and that it was Préval, not the electoral council, that put a roadblock in ’Clef’s path to the presidency.
“It’s not Wyclef you gave a report card, it’s the youth that you gave a report card,” he sings. “It’s not Wyclef you gave a report card, it’s the population that you gave a report card/ It’s not Wyclef you gave a report card, it’s the guy that sells [Haitian sweets] ’dous makos’ that you gave a report card/ It’s not Wyclef you gave a report card, it’s the countrymen that you gave a report card/ Look, they gave Wyclef a report card.”
But he saves his harshest words for the electoral council, bringing some of the brimstone of his minister father by saying the CEP is “headed by Lucifer.”
In the end, he says, he’s just sad for the youth, who he urges to support his cause and promises not to give up.
“My sweetheart is Haiti, do not break her heart/ Before I got to sleep, I always read a psalm, asking Hosanna to take the people out from under the rubbles/ And send angel Gabriel to protect the women under the tents that they are raping/ Wyclef Jean, truthfully, I will continue on contesting the electoral council/ We have to mobilize/ I won’t give up.”
[Editor’s note: Thanks to Karlito’s blog for the Creole translation.]
What do you think of Wyclef’s musical response? Let us know in the comments.