To Wyclef Jean, “What separates us is not really us. It’s rhetoric.”
Whether it’s the west-coast classic “F*** Tha Police” by NWA or the all too familiar “Fight the Power” by east-coast powerhouse Public Enemy, hip-hop as a genre has never shied away from political activism. It has been the soundtrack of protests for decades.
After a recent uptick in race-based crimes against Asian Americans, 106 & Park alumni and decorated rapper, MC Jin fell back into his artistry, where he conceived his new song and video, ‘Stop the Hatred.’ He enlisted the help of decorated hip-hop veteran Wyclef Jean, whose talents have spurned platinum-selling records like “Hips Don’t Lie” with Shakira and “Wild Thoughts” with DJ Khaled and Rihanna. Recently, the two took to the new virtual hangout platform Discord to discuss the video, minority allyship, and their goals as prominent minority figures in hip-hop.
The song’s name was born amid a New York City protest when Jin’s son, both fearful and courageous, shouted “Stop the Hatred” amongst the crowd. The video itself is a celebration of minority allyship and a testament to the unifying nature of hip-hop. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Bao Nguyen, the video is a vibrant mosaic of historical analogies, personal anecdotes, and authentic representation. Wyclef Jean is an excellent choice for the chorus. His raspy, trembling voice displays both his talent and his emotion as he repeatedly expresses the need to “rain love and stop hatred.”
MC Jin and Wyclef Jean give a masterclass in hip-hop history throughout the event, citing the Ruff Ryders, Fresh Kid Ice, Two Live Crew, Mountain brothers, DMX, Jay Z, and other prominent figures in the industry as the inspiration behind their song. Taking their cues, Jin and Jean created a piece that leans into cultural upbringings and community, two ideas that hip-hop is founded upon.
Wyclef Jean, a career activist, uses his journey as a Haitian immigrant to add depth and bridge racial and cultural divides. MC Jin adds his perspective as an Asian American and blends together the two unique cultural perspectives. The two engage in a preaching-to-the-choir-like lesson that only a few get the chance to witness. It’s something I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to see.
“What separates us is not really us. It’s rhetoric,” says Wyclef Jean. As a younger generation of minds, he wishes us to step out of the social media bubbles and amplify our love to be larger than the rhetoric. By focusing on displaying our best selves as individuals can we benefit each other as a collective. This is a very idealistic perspective to have.
In addition to the song’s message, both MC Jin and Wyclef Jean shed light on what they want their legacies to be as artists.
“You must ask yourself: How do I serve people with hip-hop,” said MC Jin. To both artists, the greatest weapon against future oppression and inflammatory rhetoric is generational wealth. Understanding that wealth, maintaining your rights as an artist and an individual, and distributing those resources worldwide have the most significant societal impact. As both artists reflect upon their careers, they want to leave behind the idea of unification; To make love an echo chamber.