Staying silent isn’t a choice for Wyclef Jean and MC Jin.
After equitable social movements like Black Lives Matter have gained momentum in the last year during the international COVID-19 pandemic, the US has seen a spike in violence towards Asian and Asian American communities. For MC Jin, as a figure in the Asian American community and as a father, it wasn’t enough to protest. After attending a rally with his son, who got on the mic and implored anyone who would listen to “Stop the hatred!”, MC Jin teamed up with longtime collaborator Wyclef Jean to produce a track and a video with the very same message. Stop The Hatred premiered this week, including on Instagram through StockX. MC Jin and Wyclef Jean sat down with StockX to give greater insight into their creative relationship, how the song came about, and how they’re dealing with a new and evolving world.
StockX: How did you two meet?
MC Jin: So Clef doesn’t know, but I’ met him as a kid when I was about 17, I would say. He was performing in Miami and he was first doing radio promo. I called up and I met him verbally because I kicked a rhyme on the radio station and he actually said, “Yo, you nice, keep doing your thing.” And then I went to the show and actually seen him perform live, killed it. But then later on, we formally, formally met on…
Wyclef Jean: 106 & Park, I was the judge at 106 & Park. If anybody who knows Jin, you do not want to freestyle against this guy. One of the most feared battle rappers, songwriters that I’ve ever met, his abilities is so witty. You went from there to getting the big deal with Ruff Ryders.
MC Jin: Yes.
Wyclef Jean: You announced it that day.
MC Jin: Then we dropped Learn Chinese the day after.
Wyclef Jean: Yeah. Learn Chinese, I produced your first joint through Ruff Ryders. Shout out to the whole Ruff Ryders.
MC Jin: RIP DMX.
Wyclef Jean: All day.
MC Jin: Absolutely.
Wyclef Jean: You already know. So yeah. So it’s full circle. So I have a word it’s called Godspeed. And literally when y’all hear this song, do not question the timing and do not question God’s timing because historically, dude, you go way back with me. You was a teenager and I’m rocking in Miami with Canibus. That’s how far back it goes.
MC Jin: Yes. Yes.
For many, it’s easy to stay silent or do nothing. What was the moment that convinced you that you have to make a statement and not just a statement, but a song and a whole music video?
MC Jin: I don’t think there was one moment that made me feel like you got to make a statement or you got to write a song. I think honestly, as I look back on my own career and journey as a creative, I’ve always felt blessed that I had a platform to channel some of these sentiments and thoughts whenever I felt like something was wrong and it needed to be addressed particularly as an Asian American. I think that from the beginning of my career, something I’m humbled and also proud to say that I was able to do, was kind of be a voice for those that felt like they didn’t have a voice.
I think in terms of the Stop The Hatred record, I think just looking at the frequency of these events, and then a pivotal moment was going to the rally with my son. I think it was a combination of several moments that led to the creation of the song and the way it all unfolded after that, connecting with Clef and having this sense of coming full circle and reuniting with him. It just all made a lot of sense. The goal is hopefully it can unite, hopefully, it can provide some encouragement and light during these dark times.
"These records can't wait, because there's a sense of urgency. This is food. This is food for the people." - Wyclef Jean
The music was written during a pandemic. The video was produced and shot during a pandemic. Why not wait? Why make this right now?
Wyclef Jean: Well, I mean the video and the song is a great necessity because what happens is when you look in the course of history and we look at records like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On or John Lennon’s Imagine, Bob Marley’s Exodus. It’s like these records can’t wait, because there’s a sense of urgency, this is food. This is food for the people. It’s almost like we got a line in rap where we say, “Oh no, no, no, finish your breakfast.” And then another dude goes, “Let me eat, I got to eat” and what he means by he got to eat. He got to get these words off his chest. And we felt that right now we have to feed this information to the public because so much hate was spread out there. That is so important that we push this positivity right back out in the world.
There’s a real sense of generation, through the imagery in the video. Jin’s hands on his son Chance’s shoulder featured subjects in a range of ages. Archival footage abutting fresh footage. What was that intention behind showing communities your time? Is it showing evolution?
MC Jin: Well, I want to shout out the director Bao Nguyen. I think him coming on board was just Godspeed. I think he approached the video and the song with so much passion with so much enthusiasm. And I think the imagery that he had in mind right away was: 1, putting faces and lives to not just the song, but what’s going on. Right? If we’re talking about the attacks we’re talking about just lives that are affected and the generational aspect was crucial, because be it the Asian community, the Black community across all communities, what are we all fighting for? Right? It is for the future. And hopefully by generation after generation, ideally it is to see a change for the better.
So for me, I think including my son in it almost felt, like it wouldn’t be completed if I didn’t in some capacity. So the fact that he was actually at the rally and the fact that we were able to incorporate it into the song. As well as into the video, I’m just super grateful. And I think it’s something that as the generations pass, hopefully things will get better.
Why did you feel it was important to include Chance in the video and in the creation of the art? Does his statement on the mic shown in the video, “Stop the hatred!” predate the writing of the song?
MC Jin: Yeah, I think having Chance on the song was almost… Yea! It was written. I can’t even take credit for it. I think having him be at the rally and then having him included in the song, as well as in the video, was almost written in the stars. I’m very proud of him and his whole process, to be honest. And even in terms of the rally, from him being hesitant to go, out of a genuine fear of safety. He asked me, “Daddy, what if the racists go and shoot people at the rally?” And it was heavy to hear an eight-year-old, your own eight-year-old for that matter, ask you a question like that.
And I think, it was a very empowering moment for both of us cause I told him, “Mommy and daddy aren’t going to force you, but we think it would be great if you did go.” And the fact that he was receptive to it was amazing. And even going, he was nervous, but for him to take all of that and channel it into the moment where he went on stage and he screamed into the mic, “Stop the hatred!” I’m super proud of him, but more importantly, I could tell how proud he was of himself when we walked off the stage. So to be able to capture that in the song is a great thing for me.
"Hopefully through dialogue we'll start to agree / More light for you doesn't make the world darker for me." - MC Jin in Stop The Hatred
What do you want people to learn from your song? Is there a specific line that you feel encapsulates the larger message?
MC Jin: So for me I think Stop The Hatred is, and I don’t think I’ve ever said this about any of my previous compositions, but I’ll say Stop The Hatred is definitely more than just a song. And what I would hope people could take away from it is the sentiment that we are all one family and in this case, be it Asian, Black, White, Hispanic, any shade, any color, any background, we’re collectively fighting hatred. I think it’s a sense of wanting to encourage, wanting to uplift, wanting to provide hope, but also I learned, and Clef brought this up the other day, being a MC is a lot of things, but he’s like, “Even if you break it down, you’re a messenger for the community,” and that’s just been sitting with me.
If there’s one line, I think the line in there literally at the end of the final verse, “Hopefully through dialogue we’ll start to agree / more light for you doesn’t make the world darker for me,” right? So just a sense of caring more for each other.
What’s your dream music collaboration that you haven’t done yet.
MC Jin: That don’t make no sense for this man. No, but I, hey, I don’t know. You might have one, go ahead.
Wyclef Jean: Exactly, you might as well go.
MC Jin: Okay. Yo, I’ll say from a hip-hop head, it would be a dream to do a joint with LL, because I think he’s one of the, yo, reasons I even decided that, yo, let me try rhyming. Also from a hip-hop head, I think, Nas’ influence is impeccable, so to do a joint with Nas would be crazy. I wish that it’d be a dream to do a joint with Wyclef, but I got two of them things. I got two of them already. I’m winning already, I hit the lotto twice. That was cool, actually.
What’s your music writing process?
MC Jin: So for me, I think writing process, I like to adapt one of my hero’s philosophies, Bruce Lee, the legend-legend, in terms of his method is no method, right? The idea of being water, even in his martial arts and in life, so for me, when I create, I think I’ve never really adapted to one format. It’s never like, let me find the beat and then start writing or vice versa. It’s always just been, like, what hits first hits first. So sometimes it will be I’ll have a concept and I’ll actually start structuring out where I want to go lyrically and then I’ll like go on a hunt for the beat. Sometimes on the flip side, I might hear a beat and right away I’ll be like, “Yo, this is what I got to write a song about.” You know? But all in all, I think the number one component of it is just living life. Because, yo, if you live your life, the inspiration, the creativity, it’ll come and that’s the best way to do it.
Wyclef Jean: You know, I think when you said Bruce Lee, I definitely could relate to that a hundred percent. I always have a word I say. They’d be like, “Yo, you going in the studio? What are you going to do?” And I said, “I’m just going to catch a vibe.”
MC Jin: Love it.
Wyclef Jean: Right? Because that’s all we can do. And once we feel that vibe and that vibe is going to produce and create naturally what’s in our air without you forcing it. So I always say like, “Yo, the best records usually happen in 15, 20 minutes because all we doing is catching a vibe.”
MC Jin: Yes.
Do you have any mental wellness tips?
Wyclef Jean: I would say mental wellness tips. The number one thing is to love yourself. And you have to be selfish. This is so important and I want you to understand that this is so hard, what I’m saying, is because we live so much for others that we just die forgetting about ourselves. And you have to understand that if you don’t have the strength to live, how are you going to help people? So at times you have to take time for your wellbeing and always understand, right? The more selfish you are for yourself, and not in the sense of what you give but in the sense of your health, in the sense of your mind, in the sense of your soul. The more you’ll be able to give back and help people.
"We live so much for others that we just die forgetting about ourselves. And you have to understand that if you don't have the strength to live, how are you going to help people?" - Wyclef Jean
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
MC Jin: Let me get this one first. So I’m definitely going to say this and not just because he’s sitting next to me, but I grew up on mid 90s hip hop, right? So I’d have to say Wyclef as Wyclef, but then as a third of the Fugees, is a crucial crucial part of that. Not only just as a hip hop head, but as a lover of music, man, I think Clef’s influence is critical for so many of us. But also I’ll throw one more in there. One of the reasons I started rhyming was the GOAT himself. Literally, we use the term goat because of this man LL Cool J. So that’s me. What about you?
Wyclef Jean: Man, it’s so ill. It’s like when you say LL Cool J. So in my era, which was before when I was a young man, it’s so crazy because you said LL and I seen him walk into the movie [KRUSH GROOVE] with the radio and put the radio down and started rhyming for Russell Simmons. Wow. I would say for me, my dad was a minister, so I was basically raised in the church. So everything that wasn’t church music was considered secular music. So we had to literally sneak to listen to other forms of music. So the closest thing that I could find that my soul could relate to was Bob Marley.
MC Jin: Of course.
Wyclef Jean: So with me, if I have to go with one person, I would definitely say Bob Marley was my greatest inspiration.
What can we expect next from you?
Wyclef Jean: So, I think with Wyclef and Jin, I think we both have a couple of things in common. We love hip hop and we love music and we’re obsessed with music. Like you all can’t see us right now, but I think we’re actually sharing music. I think we actually are the original sharers of music before people were sharing music. And I think that in Reggae, we have what’s called combinations. And I think that I’m very excited to get back in the studio with Jin. And once again… just catch a vibe.
MC Jin: Catch a vibe. Catch a vibe. And that will be no problem, or as my people like to say…
Both: 冇問題/Mo Mun Tai! (No problem!)