EAST ORANGE, NJ — Wyclef Jean, a former resident of East Orange and hip-hop music producer and rapper of The Fugees rap group, returned to his hometown Aug. 11 and 12, to shoot a music video for his new solo record, “Hendricks,” in his former residence on South Clinton Street, a location he and his bandmates made famous on their multiplatinum album, “The Score,” as the “boogah basement.”
The video features actor Michael K. Williams, better known as the character “Omar” from the hit HBO cable TV series “The Wire,” in addition to actress Tasha Smith and others, including students from the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts and Campus High School, who worked as extras and had starring roles in the production. The video is set to be released soon on the World Star Hip Hop website www.worldstar.com.
“I’m just Wyclef Jean — Google me,” said Jean on Friday, Aug. 12. “This is great. I’m glad to be in the community out here in East Orange. This is our house. This is where it all started out. This is my uncle. This is family.”
Jean said it was good to be back home with family, even if it was only for a couple of days. City officials said he specifically chose East Orange as the location for his new video because, in light of recent national incidents involving police and black male suspects, it was time to come home, to do something for children in the community and send a positive message about hope, empowerment and lifting oneself up from humble beginnings by making the right choices in life.
Jean also said he was returning to East Orange flying high after receiving good news on the career front. But then again, he said, his hometown has always been good for him and good to him.
“‘The Score’ … was done in this basement right here behind you,” said Jean. “Until today, we keep topping charts. I just got the news that ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ by Shakira is the biggest selling single of all time, done by a little boy right here that went to Our Lady Help of Christian, then Nassua, that’s now Touissant L’Overture School.”
But despite all of his success as a rapper, musician and artist, first with the Fugees and then on his own, Jean said he has always remained grounded, thanks to his East Orange upbringing.
“You can’t really be more East Orange than this,” said Jean. “We’re talking about Main Street. We’re talking about most of my clique’s deported, you know what I mean. And you have the idea of choice.”
And that, Jean said, is why he decided to come back to his hometown to shoot his video.
“So we’re out here shooting this ‘Hendricks’ video,” Jean said. “And, as you can see, I’m not the star of this video. The kids are the stars, because the idea is to give the kids the possibility for choice and you can’t use it for an excuse. This the ‘boogah.’ We got everything.”
Jean, Williams, Smith and the rest also got help from some current and former East Orange Public Schools students from Cicely Tyson School and East Orange Campus High School. One was Nyema McEntyre, 19, a burgeoning fashion designer who was cast in one of the “Hendricks” video’s lead roles as “Tiffany.” And though she’s currently attending the Parsons School of Design in New York while simultaneously designing eye-popping dresses for famous actresses, McEntyre said there might just be some acting in her future now, too.
“There are several messages in the video, particularly with Tiffany’s part; she’s the positive influence in the boy’s life; she’s the one always telling him: ‘Don’t do that; you really don’t have to go that route. I think that’s very important,” said McEntyre on Friday, Aug. 12.
“Ultimately, I think that this is the perfect time for him to produce a video like this. Right now we’re dealing with the Black Lives Matter and so many other movements. But (Jean) has it twisted because this song actually has a trap sound feel to it. So I think it’s going to catch a lot of youth’s ears. For me, I think it’s a millennial project, because a lot of people from the young generation are going to listen to it. I’m so glad that he’s putting a visual to it.”