By Aaron McLaughlin
Three-time Grammy award winner and Five Towns alumnus Wyclef Jean came back to Five Towns College on Tuesday, April 26th, to teach a Master Class on the future of the music industry and introduce his new project, SodoMoodLab. Wyclef was in the famous hip hop group, The Fugees, and has numerous chart-topping collaborations with artists such as Shakira, Whitney Houston, and Ludacris, to name a few. He shared with the Five Towns community that he “was the first rap artist to perform at Carnegie Hall.”
Before the event, students and faculty flooded into the FTC Performing Arts Center, all eager to see Wyclef. Junior Film student Angelo Teodoro talked about what it meant to have Wyclef speak at the school, saying, “Although I am a film major, I also make music and music videos. It just means a lot for a former FTC student to come here that has already made an impact on the world of hip hop and music in general.”
The event began with the lights going down and a SodoMoodLab promotional video playing to get the audience hyped up. Once the video ended, the lights went up, and the crowd roared as Wyclef Jean’s manager, Madeline Nelson, walked on stage. Not only is Nelson Wyclef’s manager, but she is also Head of U.S. Independent Label Relations at Amazon Music. Nelson talked about Sodo’s beginning stages during the pandemic in 2020 and how a random brainstorm from Wyclef in his kitchen is now poised to gain traction in the industry. Nelson went in-depth on this subject, saying, “It was not, ‘Build it they, will come.’ They came, and we had to build it.”
The lights went down, and a video about Wyclef’s life and accomplishments played before he took the stage and was greeted with excited cheers. Wyclef introduced SodoMoodLab and explained the concept of sonic emulation, where artists create brand new compositions based on the mood of another work, saying, “At the end of the day, what they didn’t want to pay for, Sodo recreated with new composers and new musicians that nobody’s ever heard of before.”
Wyclef explained that his goals for Sodo are for artists to retain licensing and publishing rights while creating an even playing field for musicians with no politics involved. He emphasized, “I created this platform based on diversity. And diversity is y’all.”
As the event progressed, he and his team showed the attendees a sneak peek demo of the Sodo app. Five Towns students were given a special QR code so they could begin building their “musical houses” on the platform. “You gotta make sure that you’re building an amazing house. You have to take the time to make sure because the people who are going to come into your libraries are amazing people,” Wyclef advised the students.
Wyclef’s Audio Engineer, James Robinson, said the biggest intended takeaway from the Master Class was for students to be able “to know your music can make you money. Instead of getting streams on Spotify, this is a way for you to get exposure and money.” Robinson also mentioned that they would be back at Five Towns in the future.
A lively Q&A session included various questions about Wyclef’s life, inspirations, and creative process. When a student asked about dealing with and overcoming writer’s block, Wyclef gave an insightful answer, saying, “Writer’s block comes when you assume you have to do something.” He encouraged students to use failure as a drive to do better in the future.
The Q&A ended with an incredible rap battle between Wyclef and FTC student Arahmus Brown, creating a fun and light-hearted way to end the Master Class.
After the event, students and staff took a group photo with Wyclef as well as selfies. Audio Business student Mark Johnson, one of the students who asked Wyclef a question, explained the importance of learning from Wyclef, saying, “It felt really good that he would take time out of his day to come here and teach us students how to market and how Sodo works.”
Wyclef Jean’s visit to Five Towns College and plans for SodoMoodLab are both parts of the legacy he wants to leave. “In order for the culture to move forward, we need to pass it on to the next generation.”
Additional reporting by Sean Lanigan and Jacob Bila