10 Things I Learned From Wyclef, Greatest Rapper Of All Time

I was in the middle of a riot.

People were throwing chairs at each other. The police were trying to bash doors down to get in.

One guy ran up to me, “It’s whites versus blacks. Come on!”

The riot was in 1996. It was in Madison Square Garden. Google the fight: Riddick Bowe vs Andrew Golata.

I hate boxing. But my girlfriend then was a huge fan. And I have a tendency to do what everyone else wants me to do else I’m afraid they won’t like me.

Golata was destroying Bowe. Unfortunately Golata kept also hitting him below the belt. Bad Golata!

So Bowe’s team went up into the ring and started beating on Golata.

And then the riot started. “Whites versus blacks! Come on!” I knew a path out. So we escaped.

I never went to a fight again.

Before the fight, as Riddick Bowe came out of his dressing room and was walking toward the ring, his favorite song came blasting through the speakers of Madison Square Garden.

“What is this song?”

I asked everyone. Nobody knew. What is this song! I had been into rap and hip hop for over a decade. I had never heard it.

The words in the refrain, “I play my enemies like a game of chess.”

One woman singing beautiful vocals and rapping (I never heard that combination before). The deep voice of one rapper. The reggae-hip hop voice of the other.

The jazz-like effects. The hip hop. The reggae. The dance beat. What is this? What. The. F. Is. This??

It was “The Score” by The Fugees. My brain exploded.

I was simple then. I wanted to fall in love. I wanted to do good at my job.

I wanted so badly for the future but I was lost in the present.

Never sacrifice the present moment for an unknown, only-possibly happy future.

How many days was I ashamed: as a parent, a partner, a friend. Because I put the future in front of the present.

And where are my two little babies now? Where will I be when they next cry in sadness?

How many days did I put on that song? Again and again. It was so confident. I couldn’t believe that I had once been so confident.

It was confident enough for a world champion to walk out into the ring, 20,000 people staring, 10 million people watching on TV. It was a powerful enough song to be the theme song of a riot.

I don’t want to waste my future. Maybe six summers left with kids. Maybe 20 summers left to be a healthy adult. Maybe more if I’m lucky.

How does someone get that confidence? How does someone become the best at what they love?

The Fugees grew up in slums. They felt like outcasts. “Fugees” is short for “refugees”.

People on the outside, pressed up at the glass window looking in at all the people pretending to be normal.

The album was rejected everywhere. Nobody would take a chance on them. They were nothing. Nobody wanted them.

So they decided to just let loose. Let their authentic voices shine.

When nobody wants you, when nobody cares, it’s the time to let that authentic voice shine through. Who are you? What do you want?

Figure it out. Because, guess what… nobody wants you. Nobody ever cared.

They are too busy wearing their masks. So I wanted desperately to take my mask off. So I could breathe again.

The album sold tens of millions of copies.

I’m listening to it right now. I can breathe. Again.


Wyclef Jean, the main rapper for the Fugees, is sitting right in front of me.

A few years ago he ran for President of Haiti (because… why not?). Now he’s starting a program to mentor musicians from all over the country.

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