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Beyond the Fugees

Pinning down Wyclef Jean, one of hip-hop's hottest commodities.

"If you've been following the news, you know there have been some incredible massacres in the suburbs," he says. "And some of those would never happen in the ghetto. People go to the extreme with certain crimes in the suburbs because they just assume that people won't be ready. That's versus Flatbush Avenue, where they know they couldn't rob just anyone--because that's cowboy town. And you've got to be careful if you're transporting money, too. For example, if you're on Smokin' Grooves and you're doing forty shows, it's obvious that everyone knows where you're gonna be at--and even some guys who love you would still rob you. Some guys find that a thrill, you know? That's why I have bodyguards--and you know they have carry permits."

Such are the changes two years have wrought: Jean has gone from being a struggling musician to an ultra-successful celebrity whose protectors must pack heat to keep him safe from fans who wouldn't mind separating him from his wallet. Nonetheless, he insists that he isn't bothered by the necessity of having a gun within reach at all times. "I grew up with that," he says. "So it doesn't bother me as much as it would bother someone else who's not from my background. I mean, that's the real America."

Smokin' Grooves, with Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Wyclef Jean with Cannabis and the Refugee Camp All-Stars, Busta Rhymes, Gang Starr and Black-Eyed Peas. 6 p.m. Sunday, August 9, Red Rocks, $27.50, 830-

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