“Tuesday’s like the Super Bowl!” Wyclef Jean exclaimed in New York City the other night. “It’s like the Cowboys versus the Pittsburgh Steelers — the way football games used to be back then. And you never can say it is until it is, but all the cards are showing that it’s Barack’s game.”
Wyclef took the stage Wednesday, October 30 to host a benefit for Words That Free Us: Voices of Recovery, a book of personal writings from addicts who have overcome substance abuse issues at Phoenix House, the country’s largest non-profit drug and alcohol treatment program. The benefit was co-sponsored and held at the sprawling Theory store in New York’s Meatpacking District.
“I think it’s so important that we show kids that we care for them,” Wyclef said. “As we’re standing here right now, there’s kids getting doped up. The idea of coming on television and saying ‘Don’t do drugs’ is bullshit. They’re not going to listen to that.”
After introducing a young woman in recovery who read one of her poems, Wyclef then turned the microphone over to his latest protégé: Niia, a lithe jazz singer from the Boston area who recently signed with Wyclef’s Carnival Records (and appeared on Wyclef’s hit “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)” last year). Sitting at a piano, she performed one of her own songs as well as a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”
Later, Niia told Rock Daily she was getting a debut album ready. “I’d really love to have an album that I feel comfortable with, that showcases jazz and is also friendly to young people,” she said. “So Wyclef’s the best guy for that — he knows how to take what I do and make it global.”
Meanwhile, Wyclef talked about a recent relief trip to Haiti, which was recently ravaged by Hurricane Ike. This time Wyclef, who launched a non-profit organization called Together for Haiti, brought along actor Matt Damon. Among his goals is to start a tree reseeding program, as tree-cutting in Haiti has caused enormous problems with flooding, since there aren’t enough trees to help absorb overflow water.
But on this night, Wyclef couldn’t help but contain his excitement about Election Day.
“We learned a lot from this election,” he said. “We saw all kinds of people come up. I never thought I’d see a bigger celebrity than Paris Hilton. But Sarah Palin took her out, man!”