Wyclef performs at the Lexus Pop-Up Concert Series at Fox Theater June 25. (Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for Pandora)
Before arriving at the Lexus Pop-Up Concert Series at the Fox Theater, I knew two things about Wyclef Jean: 1) He was in the Fugees. 2) I LOVE The Fugees.
I remember when the seminal album The Score came out and loving every track on it from the opening “How Many Mics” to the staple hits like “Ready or Not” and “Killing Me Softly.” So as a fan of that masterful LP, I was excited to see the man behind the music that had such a resonating impact on my musical taste, but as someone who mainly sticks to punk and hardcore shows, I had no idea what to really expect from a Wyclef show.
After seeing the man work, I am a firm believer and a renewed fan of his craft. The Grammy award-winning rapper and producer put his talents on display for the packed crowd at the Fox, playing guitar, rapping and playing keyboard throughout his nearly 90-minute performance.
Wyclef kicked off his set with the Fugees hit “ Ready or Not” (minus former members Pras Michel and Lauryn Hill, who is set to perform solo tonight at the nearby Flyway at Fox), and the crowd immediately erupted. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who remembers the awesomeness of The Score.
He then jumped on guitar and went into “If I Was President” to which he freestyled lyrics aimed at the upcoming Presidential candidates, current marijuana laws and even gay marriage. One of the best lines that drew the loudest responses was something to the effect of “Fuck Donald Trump, he don’t like the Mexicans.”
The show is part of the Lexus Pop-Up Concert Series Powered by Pandora, the Internet radio service, which is hosting these four-part free music events in Southern California. In addition to catching an amazing performance by Wyclef, attendees were able to check out Lexus cars that were on display on the floor of the venue (Like literally in the pit area, it was crazy.) or go to a Pandora booth to check out the latest and greatest from both brands.
Some of the notable performances of the evening were from his work with the Fugees, screaming “You got the wrong motherfuck!”before erupting into an explosive version of “Fu-Gee-La” which had just about every person in the room signing along and from his 1997 debut solo album, The Carnival, pulling up a girl from the audience to help him sing the Hill parts in “Guantanamera.” Other songs performed included “911,” “We Trying to Stay Alive” and “Hips Don’t Lie” where Wyclef invited more than 25 women in the audience to get on stage and shake it like Shakira.
Aside from covering his own spectrum of music, Wyclef also played hits from other artists like Kanye West, Too $hort, Wu-Tang Clan and even Nirvana … yeah, like “Smells Like Team Spirit” Nirvana!
So, things I learned about Wyclef after seeing him live: 1) He absolutely delivers live! 2) The man brings a level of energy and stage presence that rivals most punk and hardcore singers.
It was a night of amazing music and high energy from one of the best artists who emerged from the ‘90s rap scene and transcended the genre. The only thing that could have made it better was if Lauryn Hill had made some kind of surprise appearance. But even without his fellow Fugees in tow, Wyclef still commanded a brilliant performance in Pomona.