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Pras Explains to Vulture Why He’s Not Voting for Wyclef

This summer has seen the reemergence of two-thirds of the once-vaunted Fugees: Wyclef, as a believe-it-or-not legitimate presidential candidate in Haiti, and, to a lesser extent, Lauryn Hill, who has reappeared as a live performer abroad and on the upcoming Rock the Bells festival mini-tour. Now Pras has joined them in rediscovering the spotlight, simply by not endorsing Wyclef in the upcoming election. Vulture got Pras on the phone this afternoon to hear why.

So, why is Wyclef not qualified for the position?
He's not the one that's able to unite the whole country. I think that he does have a core constituent group, but in order for Haiti to move progressively and rapidly forward, it's going to need a person that represents more than just a particular group. Wyclef likes to talk about the youth. The youth doesn't mean much in the sense of government. You know how the youth are; the minute the next iPod comes out, iPod 6, they're focusing on that. They're not gonna be the ones that let you know how you should improve the education system, they're not gonna be there to show you how to build a grid system, or to pave the roads, or to build green, solar homes. Yes, they are an important group, but they should be treated as kids. You bring them along. You don't base your whole campaign on them just because a bunch of kids are running around in the streets with your T-shirts on.

Wyclef's charity, Yele Haiti, had some public tax issues. Should that be taken into consideration for his candidacy?
I don't know if I buy that argument. It was a start-up, a new foundation, and they didn't know how to do what needed to be done on that accounting caliber to prevent you from going through the embarrassment that he went through. But you look at the fundamentals. For example, the guy who wants to be the leader of that country, his approach dictates the tone to the rest of the country. Wyclef, he doesn't speak the language of the country! He doesn't speak French at all, and his Creole is similar to Jackie Chan's English — no disrespect to Jackie Chan. How are you gonna be an effective leader, how are you gonna be inspiring the youth, if you're telling them to forget French, forget Creole, speak English? That's in their blood, that's 200 years of culture. It'd be like Obama coming in and telling people to speak Cantonese.

Michel Martelly, the candidate you are endorsing, is also a musician. What makes him the right man for the job?
He's a transformative figure. Michel is one of the only guys that can unite not only the whole country — the elite, the masses, the youth, the Christians, the voodoo guys — but also the diaspora, the Haitians out here in America, Africa. He's the ambassador for environmental protection, for disaster relief, and he has a foundation that's been helping out the community for seventeen years. Michel served in the army. He's not doing it for photo ops … People have this affinity for him that is natural. When you have that as a leader, it goes farther than someone coming in who's popular.

Who are the other lead candidates?
There's four people in this race, but really two: It's Wyclef and Michel. The person who's supposed to be the most qualified politically, it's this guy Jacques-Edouard Alexis. Probably that's the guy that's most hated. Then you have Charlie Baker, you have Wyclef's uncle Raymond Joseph — but none of those people mean anything because it's all about popularity in Haiti.

How has your relationship with Wyclef changed since the Fugees ended?
First of all, I love Wyclef to death. I was one of his best men along with his brother at his wedding. Like any relationship, we had our ups and downs, we had our times when we weren't talking. Then there were times when we were great friends. People have different interests, you have different entourages, different people come into your life. That's what happened with Wyclef. But we were cool until I saw that he was running. As much as I love Wyclef, I want to make this clear: I would rather lose Wyclef as a friend, brother, and save a nation of 10 million Haitians. I'd rather have them be liberated, rather than have them go down off a cliff and not be saved, just to keep a friend. You understand what I'm saying to you?

Have you contacted Wyclef since you made your endorsement public?
I reached out to him twice and he never reached back to me. I don't know if it's the crew, the election campaign, or if it's just, you know, he's ignoring me — I don't know which one it is. I haven't gotten any response from him.

Have you spoken to Lauryn Hill recently?
Lauryn Hill is doing her own thing; I don't think this means that much to her ... You gotta keep in mind, Wyclef, him running for president, if he didn't pass [registration] — today it comes out at five o'clock. So this might be a moot conversation.

What could be the holdup?
Residency. That's big over there.

Last thing: Are you working on new music?
Oh yeah, definitely. I have a new group coming out, called Axis, that's going back to the original [format of the Fugees], me and two girls. It's gonna be out relatively very, very soon.

Photo: Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for AFI