"There's very few songs when you sing them or say them, they feel like a song, so redemption song just felt like an everyday message."
Growing up in the projects, Jean and his father worked nights cleaning bathrooms in local hotels to make ends meet, but he never lost sight of the American dream -- something he was easily reminded of listening to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."
"I liked that song cause it made me feel like whatever you wanted to accomplish in the U.S. you could do it at the time," Jean said.
Jean sites Michael Jackson's "Beat it" is as another song that defined him growing up, providing the perfect soundtrack to his high school years.
"'Beat It' just represented a time and a place at the time we was just coming up trying to figure what was going on," he said. "You know, going to school, but at times cutting class trying to figure out what to do with our lives, and you know, MJ 'Beat It' album was just the record that had a lot of attitude."
He was particularly impressed by the album's production, and he aspired to be like the young producer, Quincy Jones.
Jean has been going to New York City ever since he was a teenager and interned for RCA one summer, delivering mail to the mailroom. He says New York embodies a certain energy and purity for him.
"There's just no place like New York City," he said. "New York City just makes you feel like anything you want to accomplish you can do it, and it gives you that extra drive that no matter what you are going through, you're going to pull through it."
Like Frank Sinatra, who sang "New York New York," Jean felt he had to pay his dues to the city that had energized him so much throughout his life. In fact, one of his favorite songs on his new album "Carnival II: Memoirs of an Immigrant," is called "Heaven's in New York."
"I mean, the typical song that captures that is Frank Sinatra 'New York, New York,'" Jean said. "I think Frankie did one for New York, I gotta do one for New York. You know it's really been a minute since we heard New York inside a record, and it's still the big apple and we definitely give respect to that."
He not only pays homage to New York, but keep strong ties with Haiti as well -- a place that still plays an enormous role in his life. He adopted his daughter, Angelina Claudinelle, from Haiti. And he continues to work with "Yelé Haiti to provides aid to the impoverished nation.
Yelé focuses on sustainable development by putting in place programs that feed the hungry and help fight AIDS, as well as creating art and sports programs for young people. Jean's latest album plays on his Haitian roots as well.
When he's at home, Jean says he enjoys listening to gospel music, like that of C.C. Wynans, but he says he mostly listens to satellite radio.
So what's on Jean's iPod?
"I made up my own iPod. It's called the Wipod. I made my own," he said. "It's an eclectic bunch. OK, this is Jean's Wipod: Fugees, 'Ready or Not,' Jean's 'Carnival,' 'Gone till November,' 50 Cent's 'In Da club,'" Johnny Cash, 'Delia,' Kenny Rogers, 'The Gambler,' Julio Iglesias, 'To All the Girls I Loved Before,' Marvin Gaye, 'Sexual Healing.' Now that's eclectic."