Whether you’re Ready or Not, hip-hop Mogul Wyclef Jean is set to start Killing us Softly with a new Netflix movie. As a life-long fan of the rapper/actor/producer/activist, the news has me singing, “Oooh La La La La La La Lalala La Laaah, sweet thing.”
Netflix announced that they’re collaborating with Jean, a “musical visionary,” on a CG animated musical that reimagines his life story. Jean will produce the project in collaboration with the entertainment media company, Stampede. The movie which will be written by Justin Marks (The Jungle Book, Top Gun: Maverick) is inspired by Jean’s childhood in Haiti.
Jean had this to say about the upcoming project, “I grew up in extreme poverty but I was rich with imagination. Now to see that imagination turn into reality with Netflix and my producing partners makes me want to tell the kids from the slums around the world to never stop dreaming.”
Melissa Cobb, Vice President of Kids and Family at Netflix, added, “When Wyclef first came to us with the rich story idea for an animated film about his personal journey and the evolution of his music from when he was a young boy in Haiti to finding his voice in New York City – we were hooked. Animation is a medium that travels the globe exceptionally well and we cannot wait to share Wyclef’s unique perspective and voice with family audiences around the world.”
If you’re not familiar with Jean and his body of work you should take the time to get familiar with his storied career. Born in Haiti in the late 60’s, Jean emigrated to the United States at age nine and fell in love with hip-hop culture. In the early 90’s, he joined forces with Pras Michel and Lauryn Hill to form the hip-hop supergroup, The Fugees. The group exploded in popularity after releasing their second album, The Score, which spawned several hip-hop classics including Ready or Not, Fu-Gee-La, and Killing me Softly. The album’s breakout success opened doors for the group’s members, who went on to great fame. Jean would produce music for the biggest acts in popular music including Carlos Santana, Destiny’s Child, and Shakira.
It’s no secret that Netflix has a Scrooge McDuck-like vault full of money. They’re spending cash on new projects faster than a Beverly Hills trophy-spouse with a mimosa in their hand, an American Express black card in their wallet, and low self-esteem. It’s no secret either that many of these Netflix Original projects are hot trash. But there are a few reasons to stay optimistic about their collaboration with Jean.
Jean’s has an unassailable track record as a musician and producer. Lots of musicians reach platinum sales numbers and win Grammys, but few have done it like Jean. He’s not one to jump onboard a hot trend, he is a trendsetter. The Fugees rose to fame with a sound unlike anybody else. Their music blends rap, R&B, and reggae together into a unique style that after 20 years, still bumps in the club. He’s a successful artist who values artistic expression more than commercial success. And when is the last time you watched a movie taking place in Haiti? A story set in Haiti that cherishes the culture is a long time coming. Combine Jean’s creative talent, unique cultural perspective, and rags to riches tale his Netflix collaboration has the makings of a heartfelt, insightful, avant-garde picture.
It’s still early in the film’s production cycle, but I’m optimistic that Jean will show Hollywood that great origin stories don’t require awkward cameos, people in capes, or billionaires shot dead in an alley.