Praskazrel Michel is more than a two-time Grammy award-winner and founding member of the critically acclaimed group internationally known as The Fugees. The Haitian-born artist, politico, and social activist spoke with EBONY about his new documentary entitled, Sweet Mickey for President, a close look Michel Martelly, who was elected president of Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 2010. EBONY caught up with Pras on his new ventures, why he's still making good money and his thoughts on a Fugees reunion
EBONY: You were one of the first to endorse President Martelly of Haiti during his inaugural campaign. What's been the main focus of this documentary on him?
Pras: I think the focus of the documentary is the behind of the scenes, you get to see what goes on inside a campaign. You get to get a sense of an evolution of this guy that one would argue is one of the most provocative singers in Haiti. As far as what he's done in his career, as far as entertainment and to see him do that transformation from going to practice on stage to becoming head of state. It's one of those stories if you wrote a script and made a narrative movie out of it, people would say, "get the f*ck outta here" but you know this story is just one of those things that actually happened.
EBONY: You seem to have connect with the political realm just as much as the music world, where do you fit in between the two?
Pras: I'm an artist, first and foremost. We artists do what we do first love. We establish ourselves and then we venture on things thats kind of like an extension on who we are. For example, you got people who are into beverages. You got people who are into clothing lines, apparel, people in the restaurant business. I think my business, I'm into financial, private equity, you know, politics. Those are things that interest me most. What's going on and has global status around the world. You know, how I could make a change and also obviously do good while making money too.
EBONY: Tell me more about your private equity group, How did that all come about?
Pras: [Myself and my two partners] decided to start a fund. We had an opportunity to raise about a billion dollars. We were successful in locating the finances and we decided we're gonna try to do something interesting. You know try to create jobs, explore renewable energy, and do something that you're helping people. At the same time, helping to play our part and helping the planet on where it's going in this next century to come. Just a bunch guys got together. We all have something in common. We love finance and we said "Hey let's start this fund". Great things to come out of that.
EBONY: What do you think the importance of renewable energy and where do you see foresee it going?
Pras: Renewable energy is obviously the future. Whether or not you believe in global warming, I think it's been countless evidence that where Mother Nature is going with the planet is [majorly] different in the last twenty years. I mean, look at the typhoon that just happened in the Phillipines. Look at what just happened in the Midwest, in our country–tornadoes. So the way we've been treating this planet we've been abusing this planet. People gotta understand the planet is no different than our bodies, right? The whole mass body, two thirds of it, is composed of water. Just like the planet. Two third of the planet is composed of water. And everything else is land. One third of it is land. So if you mistreat it and abuse it these are the things that happened. The planet gets sick, just like if you mistreat your body, you get sick. That's why you may have noticed a lot of people are now eating gluten-free foods. A lot of people are eating green, organic foods. Free-range chicken because all the side products and the things that are added to it are harmful to your body. That's no different from the planet. So renewable energy is like feeding the planet organic food. Instead of wasting energy, we do renewable energy where its safe for the planet, safe for our health, and it can ease the tension. We're not going to change what we've done, but we can ease it and make it better. That's my philosophy on it, that's how I look at renewable energy.
EBONY: What inspired your entry into a healthy lifestyle?
Pras: You know, I think my entry is just me becoming aware of different people who I encounter in my life who left an impact on me. You know, whether it be my parents, but then also different people like peers or constituents. I remember when I first met Madonna. She's very health conscious– that's all she's about. Everything about her is about being health-conscious and doing good for the planet..She helped me get my first movie. So that's an example of someone having an impact on my views. That's who we are in general. People we meet, what we love, what we believe in, influences who we're going to become.
It was in my DNA to begin with. Look success all it does is amplify who you really are. If you're an asshole with no money, and you get money…You're just gonna be a bigger asshole, with money. If you're a hermit with no money and you get money… You're gonna buy you an island so no one can get to you.With success I've been able to do so much more. I've been blessed. That's what success does. I could've went the other way– the drugs, drinking, I've never drank in my whole entire life. I've never smoked in my whole entire life. That's just not something I was into. That's just me.
EBONY: What is your day-to-day routine like?
Pras: I live in 3 different parts of the country. My main home is Florida, my second home is New York, and then I live out in L.A also, but I have homes in each of these places and so depending where I'm at…. I'm in NY for a week, you know I'm working on a photo shoot, doing interviews, and stuff like that. My days basically are getting up and finishing the projects, dealing with everybody from my team. Dealing with my lawyers, dealing with my partner Carline, I deal with her everyday. Dealing with my brand strategist Keith. You know, figuring out what's going on with the music. Dealing with everything that comes along with it.
EBONY: Speaking of the music, your Fugees bandmate Lauryn Hill spent some time in jail. Have you spoken with her?
Pras: I spoke to her mom before she went in…just letting her know, look, if she needs anything, I'm here for her. At the end of the day she's still my bandmate. Her and Wyclef to be perfectly honest with you–I owed them a big deal. Even though I started the band, but by them saying they wanted to be apart of what I was trying to do helped me to be where I'm at today. To be the man I am today. By them lending their incredible talents through the Fugees.
I personally haven't spoken to her [since she's been out] but I'll reach out to her, obviously. I know she's busy dealing with her family. Coming out–even though it was only 3 months, but I mean a day in jail man, nobody wants to do that–especially a wonderful woman like her. To be in that situation had to be frustrating. You know its like you got people out there doing a whole lot worse than what she did and they don't go nowhere near that cell. I don't feel the crime justified the time, but it is what it is, you gotta deal with it. I'm still waiting for her to hit me back. At some point I know she'll hit me back. It's love, love. That's what it is.
EBONY: I'm sure you reminisce on the good times. Do you ever miss the group dynamic?
Pras: Being in a group is not easy, I'm going to be the first one to tell you. But at the same time its kinda fun, too, because its almost like playing on a basketball or football team— you got each other to lean on. When its going good, it's great. When it's not going good, it sucks. I don't really think about it unless somebody brings it up to be perfectly honest with you. But when I do think about it, I just think about the fond memories, man. I'm one of those people, I believe you always have to be grateful for what you have. And you always have to be grateful because the thing is you never know if there other people who have situations worst than you do. So no matter how crazy my situation or how I may feel things aint going the way I want it to go, I'm grateful to be able to even have a conversation with you and express how I feel, to have a platform for that. I'm grateful to get up whenever I want to get up, doing what I love and to be able to travel all the world is because of those two individuals. So I always look at it, like when I do reminisce back on that, I think about the fond memories, man. I could've been not in that situation and have a whole different lifestyle, you know. So I always thank God everyday for this. Especially knowing it all started from that situation.
EBONY: Would you be open for a reunion with The Fugees?
Pras: I'm open for anything. Listen, if either one of them called me and say "Hey, come break bread"…why not? Why not? No matter what happened, why not? I wouldn't be where I'm at without them. And vice versa. I don't know how they feel about that. But I know how I feel about that. I wouldn't be where I'm at without those two. But if I'm not invited, then I'll play my role. I'll stay in my position. But if I am, listen, its nothing but love.