Eight years following the release of his last full-length album, New Jersey rapper and producer Wyclef Jean discussed the release of his latest work, Carnival III, at the Wellmont Theater on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee is the final album of the Carnival trilogy, The Carnival and The Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant.
“The Carnival III is a reinvention of 1997 and 2017,” Jean said. “The whole idea with this album is to cross the old generation with the new generation.”
Jean, a three-time Grammy winner, explained that while he’s still a “hardware guy” that loves to pick up original instruments, he has also developed skills in audio-engineering. As a result, Carnival III merges “hardware” with “software,” representing a combination of 1997 and 2017.
Carnival III features contributions from Emeli Sande, Lunch Money Lewis, Supah Mario and the Knocks.
“I wanted Carnival to be about the music, not the hype, and discovering new kids,” Jean said. “I wanted people to be like ‘oh who’s that?’ and go find them on Spotify so idea of discovery for me was very important for this album.”
His third-track titled “Borrowed Time” was created in collaboration with NASA as it features sounds recorded from a shuttle that went to Jupiter.
“For me that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done as an audio engineer, to get a chance to actually partner up with NASA on song for the album which was really crazy for me.”
The rapper hails from Newark, N.J. and holds the state close to his heart – which is why he chose to hold a press conference locally at the Wellmont Theatre, preceding his homecoming performance at the theatre on Friday, Nov. 3. At 8 p.m.
“New Jersey is an area for me where the passion comes from because I understand what it’s like to struggle,” he said. “It was important for me to stop what I’m doing and come to talk to the press in New Jersey. I still believe in the physicality of human beings… I thought it was important to physically show up.”
Jean added that he plans to host a local show that features a discounted student ticket.
“A student ticket is important because I used to be in college… the first thing is I want to make sure that a lot of college kids are just able to come and have a good time,” Jean said. “The tickets should definitely be affordable to give them that experience.”
Jean emphasized the importance of students to him, explaining that his mantra is to help discover new artists and to keep kids engaged in music. He talked about how his high school music teacher, Valerie Price, made him feel that she was in it for more than the paycheck, she actually wanted him to learn something. That type of student-teacher engagement, Wyclef says, is how to keep kids involved in music in this generation.
Growing up in Newark, Jean strongly believes in the ability to change communities ravaged with gangs and negativity.
“The only way to affect a generation is to leave something behind that they can participate and learn from,” he said. “Some of the youths are not getting all of the information because the philosophy now is that the teachers are scared of the kids.
“At the end of the day… if you aren’t scared of anybody… whatever you put that energy in… you’re going to be that,” Jean said. “So what I tell the kids… is that my mom took a gun out of my hand and she put a guitar in my hand. Now what do you with that guitar? You take that same energy that you were going to use towards a negative and you turn it into a positive. So the key is to not be scared of the next generation.”
Carnival III is available in full on Spotify and tickets for his Wellmont performance can purchased at the theatre’s site.
“When I come (to the Wellmont), it’s going to be crazy,” Jean said.