Grammy-winning producer Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis has worked with his cousin Wyclef Jean since the beginning of their careers, and their bond is still tighter than ever. After hearing news of ‘Clef getting shot in the hand while visiting Haiti last month, he was the first person to get the call that everything was fine.
“When something happens to ‘Clef, I’m the first one that gets the phone call,” Wonda told Rap-Up.com. “He was in the hospital right there, and when the whole situation happened, he was like, ‘Cousin, I’m OK. Don’t worry. I’m good, I’m good. Everything all right. I’ll call you tomorrow, everything is good.’ I had to hear his voice, because this guy, me and ‘Clef, we go a long way.”
Duplessis, native to Haiti, recalls moving to the United States as a kid where he stayed with Wyclef’s mother and little sister. With his cousin, he built the infamous Booga Basement studio where they worked on the seminal Fugees album The Score and made history.
“All I just know is that we worked in the house together. We all used to sleep there, I’m talking everyone,” recollected Wonda, who now has his own Platinum Sound Recording Studios in New York City. “What I could tell you is just that the old days were lovely, and if I could go back again, I definitely would go back. But it’s a whole new era for me right now.”
With production on upcoming albums by Mary J. Blige, Melanie Fiona, Musiq Soulchild, Alicia Keys, John Legend, and more, Duplessis is also focusing on his Yéle Haiti Foundation, established with ‘Clef in 2005. Since its creation, the two have put thousands of children in school and rallied local musicians to participate in bettering the community.
“We got a phone call from the kids down there that said, ‘Please, Wyclef, come down,’ and of course, Wyclef was like, ‘Jerry, we going,'” he continued. “We went straight from the studio to Haiti to a place called Cité Soleil and sat down with kids and gangs and mothers and uncles—everybody, and [saw] what they wanted. ‘Clef was like, ‘Let’s do what we do.’ We went in to start a movement with a lot of musicians.”
The Fugees frontman tried to aid the country by unsuccessfully running for president of Haiti, but there’s no love lost for recent elect Michel Martelly.
“Right now, Haiti got a whole new president, which Wyclef did a wonderful job of helping. It’s a great movement,” he explained. “Me and Wyclef, we talk every day. He’s in Haiti, and I’m up here working with the Yéle. I’m the co-chairman of the Yéle Haiti. There’s a lot of good things. Me and ‘Clef, we still do a couple of shows when he gets a minute. He’ll come back from Haiti and go right here. That’s where we are. We’re family, we’re cousins.”
–Steven J. Horowitz