“I wanted people to relate to the skits and stories on The Carnival. My true love is putting audio plays together. So I wanted The Carnival to feel like an epic play. I wanted to bring people back to when the world was one. The Carnival translated to my version of Westside Story. I wanted to bring an immigrant story to the masses through music. I wanted it to translate to Immigrants everywhere, whether you were in the ‘hood or in Cuba.
The real secret to The Carnival was the fact that my music is always honest to what’s going on at the time. I had a song called ‘To All The Girls,’ which was talking about the girls I cheated on. I was in between relationships at that time with my wife and Lauryn and I was not living in my house. I was in a small apartment on 66th street in Manhattan. I was smoking a lot of cigarettes stressed out with some red wine and bunch of vinyl in a tiny apartment. This is where the foundation for The Carnival started. Once I structured the album at my apartment, I took it out to the studio. But the studio is not what made the sound of The Carnival. When you hear a song like ‘Apocalypse’, that’s from a piece of vinyl from a French composer that I was playing one day. All of this was coming from my little apartment.
I knew that Carnival would shock people. The song that stands out the most to me is ‘Yele.’ That song always takes me back to when I met Stevie Wonder. He comes up to me saying the lyrics to ‘Yele’ in Creole…the whole song! He doesn’t just go into ‘Gone In November’ [laughs]. He tells me his favorite song is the most obscure record on the album. I recorded ‘Yele’ in 1997, but it talks about what’s happening in my country of Haiti today. If you go and translate this song in English you will see the earthquakes predicted. ‘Those with ears let them hear; those with eyes let them see…if not, the country is going to go under/10,000 coffins and they all are kids. The priests pray but no one will rise that day. Mom cries, but the deaf can’t hear.’
I never thought about if what I was doing was hip-hop. You have to understand where I’m from. I’m not from the suburbs. I’m not one of those kids that say let me do this hip-hop stuff so I can be accepted in the ‘hood. Because I’m from Marlboro Projects. I am hip-hop. I never had to prove anything. It’s a culture. If you notice, any group that said it was keeping it hip-hop and keeping it real, they are no longer here. Hip-hop is a way of living. And there are different forms of music within that. When I’m doing music I’m not thinking let me put myself in a rap box. Hendrix wasn’t accepted in Harlem. But when he went to England he was a God. He refused to be placed in a box. That’s the way you have to think.”