Wyclef Jean Tells Us About Discovering New Talent the Authentic Way — Not on Reality TV

Wyclef Jean will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Winspear Opera House.
Wyclef Jean will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Winspear Opera House. Eric Garcia
Wyclef Jean wants to give back to the next generation of musicians.

The former member of the legendary hip-hop group the Fugees released Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee, his eighth studio album, last year. But he's already looking ahead. His next mixtape, Wyclef Goes Back to School, will be an effort with college students he discovers.

We sat down with Jean to talk about some of his favorite memories from performing in Dallas, his favorite singles from Carnival III and how he plans to discover the next big thing.

You are a jazz major and have benefitted, like many of us, from the fine arts programs in primary and secondary school. With fine arts programs diminishing because of budget cuts nationwide, have you thought about using your platform to help salvage some of these programs for the next generation?
I started a program by the name of Clef Kids. You can obtain it from Amazon, and the proceeds are donated to charity. When I started the Clef Kids, I wanted to make people aware that you cannot cut the music programs, and I also partnered with VH1’s Save The Music by auctioning guitars, raising $30,000 and encouraging voting citizens to be aware of what is on the ballot and what the candidates stand for when casting your vote. We need to not only support the organization but the legislative.

You will perform May 2 in Dallas as a part of the Carnival tour to promote your newest album, Carnival III. Can you tell us some of your favorite tracks from the project?
One of the tracks is called "Warrior," and the idea of the single is to fight, and it is not what you do when you fall but how you recover from it. The kids nowadays have so much pressure of having to be great. I wanted them to know from this track that no matter what you are going through, fight through it. Another record I like is called "Borrowed Time" and wanted to let people know how important life is and not take anything for granted.

"The multiculture in Dallas is overlooked in the city." – Wyclef Jean

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What was the inspiration behind the selection of songs for this album?
The selection of the songs for the album and other songs I have made in the past come from the personal experience I see going on around me. This is how I created the Wyclef music sound throughout my career.

What are some of your favorite memories of performing in Dallas?
The multiculture in Dallas is overlooked in the city. I remember the first time I came to Dallas. Coming from the New York projects, you either grew up a Steelers fan or a Cowboys fan. Nowadays, artists want to be sports figures and vice-versa, and I thought that I was Tony Dorsett growing up. So of course, the Cowboys and me performing in Dallas are some of my favorite memories. And the city having a variety of different cultures is something else that I would add to the list.

You were able to work with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones early on in your career. Can you share with us how you want to use your platform to educate the next generation of musicians?
I want to teach people how to use music programs like FruityLoops [now called FL Studio] to reprogram their minds with all the configurations correctly. I believe sharing this information is critical for the next generation to succeed. The next mixtape is called Wyclef Goes Back to School.

The first single of the project is called "Sak Kap Fet," featuring an artist by the name of Kofi Black from Ghana and another artist out of USC, Moira Mack. We are doing a nationwide selection of kids to make this mixtape —  recruiting talent from all over the United States.

Our discovery process centers around finding talent the old-fashioned way, like when Destiny’s Child was discovered — rather than the reality show concept, which kills the authenticity and talent of the artist. With the Carnival tour, I have a lot of openers that are mostly local acts in each city or upcoming acts of students who are graduating from universities.

Wyclef Jean performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Winspear Opera House. Tickets start at $35.
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