Wyclef Jean Freestyles While Playing Guitar In One Of The Illest 5 Fingers Of Death EVER (Video)

By all accounts, Wyclef Jean is one of the most unique voices in Hip-Hop. The Haitian-born, Brooklyn-raised MC, singer, musician, and songwriter helped elevate the influence of Caribbean music in American culture, and his multilingual heritage has always been a hallmark of his work. With all of that diversity, it’s sometimes easy to forget that ‘Clef has bars; in the 1990s, as a member of iconic group The Fugees, he was undoubtedly celebrated as a bona fide lyricist. In the years since the group’s breakup, ‘Clef has been Grammy nominated for his solo work several times over, led humanitarian efforts in his native country (and ran for president), and has found tremendous success working alongside Destiny’s Child, Carlos Santana, Shakira, and more.

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All of that was showcased on “Sway in the Morning” today (January 31), where Wyclef sat with Sway et al for an interview. But it was all brought back to the Hip-Hop foundation when, at the 26:10 mark, ‘Clef gets in the 5 Fingers of Death zone. But before he lets loose with his freestyle, Sway recounts a story from the 1990s, when The Fugees visited him at his KMEL radio show in the Bay Area. “We looked [Wyclef] in the eye, we looked Pras in the eye, we looked Lauryn in the eyes. And we said ‘all that sounds great, but at the end of the day, do you have bars?'”It’s then that Sway sets up the 5 Fingers of Death intro, saying “before it was even called 5 Fingers of Death, he was stepping up to the plate. You can sell as many records as you want, make as much money as you can, stand to as many celebrities as satisfies you. But it doesn’t satisfy us unless we know you’ve got bars.”

Armed with his acoustic guitar and bars for days, ‘Clef lives up to the introduction and then some, kicking rhymes about everything from illegal immigration to ghostwriting. Atop Outkast’s “Elevators (Me & You),” The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Warning,” and more, the Fugee gets busy for more than five minutes, deftly switching up vocal styles, lyrical content, and his mood. To set things off, he takes us back to his early childhood in Haiti, saying “My life started out in a small village, I ate dirt from the floor, homie no kiddin/I ain’t have no kitchen, grandma said ‘pray to Christ’, this Jesus baby barely had a bag of rice.” Another notable verse came in the form of one which managed to make mention of a handful of famous New York MCs without being just a list of names. “I got nothin’ to lose, I’m Kool G when I rap about these ill street blues/Listen, my Diddy Biggie shooters, they lil like Kim/And I ain’t no joke, but I’ll Rakim/I used to slapbox in front of project elevators/The way I rock a fella, you would think I’m Sean Carter, yup.”

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‘Clef is expected to drop his much anticipated eighth solo album, Carnival Vol. III: Road to Clefication, this summer (“Carnival III is coming in June,” he says). It would be his first since 2009’s From the Hut, To the Projects, To the Mansion and based on some of the lyrics in his new song “The Ring,” he’s ready. In fact, he mentioned his impending return to the studio in the top of his interview with Sway, saying he feels like he’s “back in the music zone.” Other topics covered in the interview include his thoughts on Young Thug’s “Wyclef Jean,” the generation gap in Hip-Hop and mumble Rap, his thoughts on Donald Trump’s immigration ban, and whether he and Lauryn Hill will ever mend fences. Fans of The Fugees will likely take a special interest around the 9:00 mark, when ‘Clef is surprised to find out Lauryn Hill is featured on a deluxe package of Jean’s forthcoming E.P., J’ouvert (“I didn’t OK that”).