For many of us, when the name Haiti is mentioned, what comes to our minds might not be hip-hop/rap music. Although this is quite sad, for many people, what comes to mind is the 2010 earthquake which occurred on January 12, 2010.
This was not just an ordinary natural disaster that shook a certain country—as a matter of fact, the entire world was indirectly shaken by this. According to Haiti’s official government report, more than 300,000 people lost their lives to this earthquake.
But on the contrary, that isn’t the only significant thing that happened or happens in Haiti—there are also very beautiful art forms, music, culture, and history.
In the early 1980s, the Late Great Master Dji who was living in France witnessed how American hip-hop gave birth to French Hip-Hop. Inspired by this, Deji, who was from Haiti, moved back to Haiti to start a hip-hop movement that eventually took Haiti by storm and by surprise.
Considering that it started in the early 1980s, it is okay to say that hip-hop in Haiti is still pretty much new. One of the major features that separate this style of hip-hop from others is the use of Haitian Creole.
Because of this, this hip-hop/rap style is also known as “rap Creole” (rap Kreyòl). Since the early 1980s, rap Creole has been an integral part of Haitian culture. Hip-hop groups like Original Rap Staff, King Posee, Masters of Haiti, Fighters, Rap Kreyòl S.A., Blackdo, Prince Berlin, Fam-Squad, Supa Deno, and Muzion have all attained stardom.
In this article, we will talk about this unique hip-hop style and 15 amazing rappers who have all contributed to the growth of this style and hip-hop as a genre. Even if you are not a fan of hip-hop or Haitian rap, it still makes a lot of sense you know these rappers.
Brief History Rap Kreyòl
As Rap Kreyòl gained momentum in the 1980s, it started to become a platform for Haitians to express their life experiences and a vehicle to share their concerns.
The genre’s evolution was not just about music but also about giving a voice to the social and political issues that were not having the attention they deserved.
The lyrics of Rap Kreyòl songs became a form of protest, shedding light on the struggles of poverty, political instability, and social inequality that were prevalent in Haiti.
Music often serves as a voice for the unheard, and Of course, we’re all familiar with this kind of functionality of music when we think about rap music.
The 1990s saw a surge in the popularity of Rap Kreyòl, with the emergence of new artists and groups who brought fresh new sounds and styles to the genre.
This period also marked the beginning of a shift in the lyrical content of Rap Kreyòl, with artists starting to incorporate themes of hope, resilience, and Haitian pride into their music, instead of only focusing on the conflicts.
It is quite astonishing to see that this shift was a reflection of the changing social and political landscape in Haiti, with the country transitioning towards democracy. Or maybe it was not only a reflection but also a cause of the change?
We might not know for sure, but it’s definitely nice to believe that music and art have this kind of power. In the 2000s, Rap Kreyòl started to gain international recognition, with artists like Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-born rapper, bringing the genre to a global audience.
This period also saw the rise of female Rap Kreyòl artists, who used their music to challenge gender norms and advocate for women’s rights in Haiti. Again, we see the importance of music and artistic expression in bringing balance and fairness to human society.
The 2010 earthquake in Haiti had an obvious effect on the country in general, in people’s lives, but it also had a profound impact on Rap Kreyòl. In the aftermath of the disaster, the genre became a source of solace and a means of healing for the Haitian people.
Artists used their music to raise awareness about the plight of the earthquake victims and to rally support for the recovery efforts. Today, Rap Kreyòl continues to evolve, with a new generation of artists pushing the boundaries of the genre.
Despite the challenges that the genre has faced, its spirit remains unbroken, much like the people it represents. Rap Kreyòl is more than just a style of music – it’s a symbol of Haitian resilience and a testament to the power of art as a tool for social change.
About the Haitian Rap Scene
Currently, the Haitian rap scene is experiencing a surge in popularity, particularly among the country’s youth. Artists such as Wyclef Jean, Barikad Crew, T-Micky and Zoey Dollaz, amongst others, are leading the charge, each bringing their unique style and perspective to the genre.
Wyclef Jean, a veteran of the Haitian hip-hop scene, has achieved international success with millions of views on Youtube and reach in general.
Also, younger artists like Micha and Kreyol La are making waves with their innovative sound and socially conscious lyrics, sometimes reminding a little bit of the French rap scene and some reggaeton influences here and there.
The future of Haitian hip-hop looks promising, with a new generation of artists taking the genre in new and exciting directions, and collaborations with top 10 artists. These artists are not only shaping the country’s musical identity but are also influencing the social and political awareness of its people.
Haitian hip-hop has made significant contributions to the global hip-hop culture. Artists like Wyclef Jean have achieved international success, bringing the unique sound of Haitian hip-hop to a global audience.
The genre’s unique blend of traditional Haitian music and modern hip-hop beats, along with its socially conscious lyrics, has gathered attention and acclaim from critics and listeners alike.
The Haitian rap scene is thriving and continues to evolve, reflecting the realities of Haitian life while also pushing the boundaries of the genre. With a new generation of talented artists emerging, the future of Haitian hip-hop looks bright.
15 Top Haitian Rappers
Nel Ust Wyclef Jean, simply known as Wyclef Jean, was born on October 17, 1969, hailing from the vibrant region of Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti.
Today, he is recognized as a highly influential figure in the global music industry, with his unique talents spanning across rapping, musicianship, and acting.
At the age of nine, Jean’s family sought a new life and emigrated to the United States. As it usually happens, it was here that his musical voyage truly took off.
Jean co-founded and played a significant role as a co-producer and guitarist in a pioneering hip-hop trio from New Jersey, known as the Fugees. Sharing the stage with Lauryn Hill and Pras Michel, the group rose to prominence, contributing profoundly to the music scene.
Jean kicked off his solo career with his first album, “Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival” in 1997, which had the super popular song “Gone till November.” His music is a mix of all sorts of sounds, like hip hop, reggae, R&B, pop rap, soul, and neo-soul.
Wyclef has this special talent for bringing different music styles and cultures together. Thanks to this and his musical creativity in general, he’s won three Grammy Awards, a special humanitarian award from BET, and a Vanguard Award from the NAACP Image Awards.
Wyclef Jean’s music is all about his roots in Haiti and the stories of people from Haiti living in other countries. He has used his fame to get the word out and raise money for Haiti, especially after the big earthquake in 2010.
Apparently, there was some drama around his charity, Yele Haiti, but no one can deny that Jean has left a huge mark on the rap scene in Haiti and the worldwide hip-hop culture.
His songs still connect with people all over the world, and his role in Haitian rap shows how music can help express culture and bring about social change. As a trailblazer in Haitian rap, Wyclef Jean keeps inspiring new Haitian artists with his legacy.
Zoey Dollaz (Zoey)
You might know him from his featuring with Chris Brown. Born in Haiti and known to the world as Zoey Dollaz, the artist recently simplified his moniker to Zoey, solidifying his unique place in the music world. Today, Zoey stands tall as the founder and CEO of Litville, a music label distributed by Empire.
As a child, Zoey relocated to Miami, Florida, a move that would be pivotal in his life and career. Music became his solace, a refuge where he could channel his creativity and passion.
His affection for rap music quickly evolved into a talent that would soon captivate audiences and record labels alike. In 2015, Zoey’s career trajectory took a sharp and promising turn. His track “Blow a Check” climbed the radio charts, causing some noise in the music industry.
The song was a magnet for industry executives and labels, but it was the globally celebrated music icon Future who made the most impactful move. Impressed by Zoey’s talent, Future welcomed him into his Epic Records subsidiary, Freebandz.
This opportunity was key in Zoey’s journey, transforming him into the crown jewel of Miami’s underground rap scene. Zoey began to churn out an impressive discography that includes projects such as ‘Port-Au-Prince‘ and ‘October.’
This rise to prominence established him as a formidable force in the music industry, eventually leading to his ascendance as a key player in the world of hip-hop.
Now, as a hip-hop luminary, Zoey is actively helping upcoming artists find their footing in the industry, all while continuing to release music under his label. His portfolio of work includes impressive projects like ‘Last Year Being Humble‘ and ‘Thank You for Doubting Me.’
His next endeavour, a highly anticipated project titled ‘Meet Me at Customs,’ is currently under work, further fueling the excitement among his fans and industry colleagues.
Zoey’s journey exemplifies the power of perseverance, and his contribution to the music industry serves as a testament to his talents and leadership.
Barikad Crew is a hip-hop group from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that started up in 2002. The founding members, Papa K-tafalk, Dejavoo, and Kondagana, wanted to make music that really showed what life is like in the slums.
They brought in other rappers from underground groups to join them, and they released their first single, a carnival song called “Proje” (Project), in 2003.
Their music is all about the real-life experiences of people living in Haiti’s city slums—not easy, we can imagine. They often sing about social problems and the everyday hardships of life in Haiti.
Their first album, “Goumen Pou Saw Kwe,” came out in November 2007, showing their dedication to their music and their community. The group has been through some really tough times, including losing three members—K-tafalk, Dejavoo, and Dade—in a car crash in 2008, and another member, Young Cliff, in the 2010 earthquake.
But even after all that, Barikad Crew has kept making music and performing, and they’re still a big deal in the Haitian rap scene. Their music is a cool mix of Rap Kreyòl and hip-hop, with lyrics often in Haitian Creole.
This unique style has won them a lot of loyal fans, not just in Haiti but also among people of Haitian origin living in other countries.
Barikad Crew has really made a mark on the Haitian rap scene. Their music keeps inspiring a lot of listeners. They’re also definitely committed to telling the truth about life in Haiti.
T-Vice is a band from Haiti that plays Compas music (Compas, sometimes spelt as Kompa, is a popular genre of dance music that originated in Haiti in the mid-20th century). They’re based in Miami, Florida, and started back in 1992.
The band was started by brothers Roberto and Reynaldo Martino. Their dad, Robert Martino, was a famous lead guitarist for the classic Compas band Top Vice.
Growing up around their dad’s music, they got inspired to make their own. They named their band T-Vice, with the “T” standing for “Ti” or “Petit,” which means “small” in French and Creole, so it’s like they’re saying “small Vice.”
Their music is a mix of compas and other styles like reggae, merengue, flamenco, and rock ‘n’ roll. Although it’s not exclusively rap, they are a big part of the Haitian music scene so they needed to be included.
They’ve played in big cities all over, like Miami, New York City, Chicago, Toronto, Paris, and many places in the Caribbean.
They’ve also worked with other well-known Haitian bands and musicians, like Michel Martelly (Sweet Micky), Carimi, Djakout Mizik, Wyclef Jean, and the Jamaican musician Buju Banton.
The songs they make are all about the diverse and rich culture of Haiti. They often talk about social problems and what life is really like in Haiti. Their music and shows made a big impact on the rap scene in Haiti and the worldwide hip-hop culture.
Michael Brun, a music producer with a unique sound, masterfully combines traditional Haitian rhythms with the contemporary beats of pop and electronic music.
His distinctive style is showcased in tracks such as ‘Soweto’ and ‘Positivo,’ which have amassed tens of millions of plays and have captivated music enthusiasts around the world.
Brun’s talent and innovative approach have allowed him to collaborate with a star-studded list of artists that includes the likes of J Balvin, Alicia Keys, One Republic, Calvin Harris, and Diplo.
His international acclaim is evident in his recognition by TIME magazine, which lauded him as “a Haitian representative on the world stage.”
A regular on the festival circuit, Brun has graced the stages of prominent music events such as Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival. But his contributions to the music scene extend far beyond his own performances.
He co-founded the popular music playlist Haitian Heat and launched his own non-profit festival in Haiti in 2016, demonstrating his commitment to showcasing his homeland’s rich cultural heritage.
In the eyes of many, Brun is more than a music producer. He serves as a symbol for a new generation of Haitians, proudly carrying the flag for his country’s vibrant culture and traditions.
He is also a prominent figure in the Emmy-winning Beatmaking Lab project, and his contributions to the music world were recognized in 2020 when he secured a Latin Grammy for his work on J Balvin’s album ‘Colores.’
Through his music, Brun continues to inspire and make a significant impact on the global music scene.
T-Micky, whose real name is Michel Alexandre Martelly, was born on December 9th, 1992, and is a prominent Haitian artist. He specializes in a unique blend of Caribbean Soul and Haitian Kompa, a genre of music that originated in Haiti in the mid-20th century.
T-Micky comes from a family of artists and has been involved in music production and performance from a very young age. His father, known as “Sweet Micky,” has been a significant influence on his musical journey.
Despite his young age, T-Micky has managed to carve out a niche for himself in the Haitian music scene, bringing a fresh and youthful perspective to the traditional Kompa genre.
His music is characterized by its rhythmic beats and soulful melodies, which reflect his Caribbean roots and his passion for music.
T-Micky’s music not only entertains but also serves as a cultural ambassador, promoting Haitian music and culture to a broader audience. His work continues to inspire and influence the next generation of Haitian artists, cementing his place as a key figure in the Haitian music industry.
Baptista Lugendy St-Hubert, known to the world as Baky Popile, is a Haitian singer and rapper who has carved out a unique place in the music industry.
Born and raised in the city of Les Cayes in the South of Haiti, Baky’s music is deeply rooted in his heritage. His upbringing in a musical family instilled in him a deep sense of rhythm and a passion for creating music that resonates with people.
His song “VID” has become a hit, earning millions of views on YouTube and solidifying his place in the Haitian music scene. Beyond his music, Baky is known for his charismatic stage presence and his commitment to using his platform to inspire others.
Roody Roodboy, was born Roody Pétuel Dauphin on June 27, 1988, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and was raised in Cité Militaire, a neighbourhood in the city.
He has made a significant impact on the Haitian music scene with his unique style and compelling lyrics. His songs, such as “Tranble” and “An Kachet,” have garnered millions of views on YouTube, demonstrating his widespread popularity.
In addition to his musical talents, Roody Roodboy has also been recognized for his performances. He was crowned Champion of the Haitian Carnival, a testament to his dynamic stage presence and ability to captivate audiences.
Throughout his career, Roody Roodboy has received multiple awards, including Best New Artist in 2015 and Best Male Artist in 2016 by Ayiti Biyografi. He also won Best Collaboration in 2016 for his piece “Special” and Best Compas Video in 2016 for his video “Karese’m La.”
In 2017, he was awarded Best Performance by the HMI Music Awards and was named the Creole Artist of the Year by Prestigious Haitian Mus. Roody Roodboy has collaborated with other big-name Haitian artists, further enriching the Haitian music scene.
Despite his success, Roody Roodboy remains dedicated to his craft, continuously striving to create music that resonates with his audience and represents his Haitian heritage.
Fantom, born Daniel Darinus on March 26, 1981, is a highly influential figure in the Haitian music scene. He is best known for his contributions to Rap Kreyol, a genre that blends traditional Haitian music with elements of hip-hop.
Born and raised in Bas Peu d’Chose, Haiti, Fantom’s interest in music was sparked at an early age. He began his musical journey with the group D-Camp and later joined SOS before becoming a part of the renowned group, Barikad Crew.
This group is considered one of the most significant rap groups in the Caribbean. Fantom’s impact on the Haitian music scene is profound. He is often compared to international rap icons like Jay Z and 2pac, reflecting his influence and the respect he commands in the industry.
His music has resonated with audiences both in Haiti and abroad, earning him a place as one of the pioneers of Haiti’s rap scene. In addition to his music career, Fantom is also an entrepreneur.
He was a co-founder of the label “Tapajè Records,” further demonstrating his commitment to promoting Haitian music and supporting local artists.
Despite facing challenges, including immigration issues that led to his return to Haiti from the United States, Fantom continues to produce music that reflects the experiences and aspirations of the Haitian people.
Jean Léonard Tout-Puissant, better known by his stage name Izolan, is a celebrated Haitian rapper and lyricist. Born on December 24, 1982, in Arcahaie, Haiti, Izolan has made significant contributions to the Rap Kreyol genre, a unique blend of traditional Haitian music and hip-hop.
Izolan started his music career as a member of the popular Haitian group, Barikad Crew, and another group called Bas Peu Chose BPC. His time with these groups helped him establish a strong presence in the Haitian music scene.
In 2010, Izolan embarked on a solo career, releasing several albums that further solidified his reputation as a talented lyricist and performer. His albums include “Fèmen bouch yo” in 2010, “Femen Bouch Nou” in 2011, and “K-Tafal” in 2013.
Known for songs like “Trip Sou Mwen,” “M’pa Konn Anyen,” and “Shake Dada,” Izolan’s music has resonated with audiences both in Haiti and abroad. His lyrics often reflect the experiences and challenges of life in Haiti, providing a voice for many who share similar experiences.
Jamecy Alex Pierre, a.k.a. Black Alex, was a pioneering figure in the Haitian rap scene. Born in Petion-Ville, Haiti, Black Alex was not born into wealth but managed to make a significant impact on the music industry through his talent and passion for rap.
The nickname “Black Alex” was a childhood nickname which eventually became his pseudonym in the music industry. He began his career in the 90s with the group King Posse, marking a whole generation with hits such as “Lokal,” “Bòt La,” and many popular carnival meringues.
Black Alex revolutionized Haitian music in the 90s and left a lasting legacy that continues to influence the genre today.
King Posse, a name that resonates with the vibrant beats of Haitian music, is a band that has left an indelible mark on the Caribbean music scene. Formed in the early ’90s, this group of talented musicians came together with a shared passion for their culture and a desire to express it through their music.
King Posse’s music is a fusion of traditional Haitian rhythms, contemporary beats, and a dash of reggae, creating a unique sound that is as infectious as it is distinctive.
Their lyrics, often sung in Haitian Creole, are a testament to their deep-rooted love for their homeland and its rich heritage. The band’s journey has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.
From their early days of performing at local gigs to releasing chart-topping albums and touring internationally, King Posse has experienced it all. Despite the inevitable ups and downs, the band’s commitment to their craft and their fans has never wavered.
Like many of the other top 15 Haitian rappers, they’ve used their space to address social issues, becoming a voice for the Haitian community both at home and abroad. Their songs often reflect the struggles and triumphs of everyday life, resonating with listeners on a deeply personal level.
King Posse is a cultural icon, a beacon of Haitian pride. Their legacy continues to influence the Caribbean music scene, proving that their reign in the world of Haitian music is far from over.
J. Perry, whose real name is Jonathan Perry, was born on June 4, 1988. He is a well-known Haitian singer, songwriter, and composer.
On February 18, 2012, he was awarded a Gold Disk Plaque for his song “Dekole” by the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, the Minister of Tourism, Stéphanie Villedrouin, and the Haitian Carnival Committee.
The song “Dekole”, which means “take off” in Haitian Creole, inspired the theme of the 2012 Carnival. J. Perry was raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and began playing music at the age of six. Even before he learned musical theory, he could play songs by ear.
He was enrolled in piano lessons to nurture his musical abilities. He performed in various concerts, recitals, contests, and even a Dominican orchestra when he was eleven. He continued to play classical music until he was thirteen.
In June 2009, Perry chose to concentrate on his debut album. He collaborated with Carl Fred Behrmann, the CEO and owner of Baoli Records, and wrote and produced songs for several artists in Haiti. Baoli Records also supported Perry in his own music career.
Perry’s first single, “Starin At Your Body”, led to a collaboration with Power Surge of XO Management, a multi-hit producer, to produce his debut album.
Power Surge is known for producing songs like “Look What I Did” and “Do It”. “Starin At Your Body” was later remixed with artist “Black Dada.”
Perry’s debut album, “One Life to Live”, was released in November 2011 and was distributed online through platforms like iTunes and Rhapsody. The first song on the album, “Dekole,” became a Haitian hit, receiving unprecedented plays on local radio stations.
The song was named Hit Song of the Year and was chosen as the 2012 “theme song” for the Haitian Carnival. The song also reached Brazilian audiences through a remix featuring Claudia Leitte, a popular Axé singer in Brazil.
J. Perry’s song “Dekole” was featured on the Zumba MegaMix 33 album, and “Bouje” was included in the Zumba Incredible Results infomercial. His inclusion in the MegaMix led to his music being used in Pepsi commercials by Miami star Pitbull.
Tony Mix, named Tony Mahotière, was born on February 13, 1983, in Port-au-Prince. From a very young age, he had a deep passion for music, particularly dancehall and hip-hop.
Tony Mix’s DJ career truly began in 2005, and since then, he has been building a significant empire in the music industry, working tirelessly to realize his vision. Being a DJ is no small feat, and Tony understood this from the start.
He used to organize parties at the Bling club in Côte-Plage 18, the neighbourhood where he spent his childhood. During these events, Tony showcased his innate talent for mixing music.
In 2005, he joined the Sound Design staff as the main DJ. He spent about three years with this team, impressing everyone with his performances. In 2008, Tony Mix left Sound Design to create his own group, Tony Mix Seet Yah, which has since become one of the best DJ groups in Haiti.
Tony’s posters can be seen everywhere, a testament to his popularity and talent. But Tony Mix is not just a DJ; he is also a singer. He doesn’t limit himself to just mixing music, which is why he composed his first hit song “Anba Dekonb” in 2010, which was a phenomenal success at the time.
Tony Mix is a DJ with a strong personality. He often encourages young people to follow the path to success. He believes in the power of education, often stating that it’s a renowned weapon that can be used to achieve anything.
According to Tony, not pursuing education isn’t always a bad choice, but the chances of failure are less likely when one chooses the path of education.
K-Lib, born Valckensy Dessin on January 23, 1981, in Port-au-Prince, is a Haitian rapper. He was previously known as “K-Libr,” but in 2018, he dropped the “r” from his stage name.
According to his management team, the dropped “r” symbolizes his departure from an era of hypocrisy and intellectual fraud, distancing himself from those who belittle the language spoken by the majority of Haitians as illiteracy.
“I write to exist, I create to resist” is his main motto.
K-Lib pursued university studies at two institutions of the State University of Haiti. He graduated from the Department of Social Sciences at the Normal Superior School, where he began studying in 2002.
In March 2007, he was admitted to the Faculty of Human Sciences where he studied sociology. Growing up in a Christian family, Valckensy started his music career in the church. In 1997, he ventured into rap by joining his first group, “Power Staff.”
He later joined the group “Soldiers,” where he released his first album in 1998. He then appeared on an album by Izi One and co-founded Mystik 703 in 2000. With his Mystik 703 teammates, he formed his clique in the commune of Carrefour: S.K.LAD.
In 2013, he released a 14-track album titled “Mes Tourments.” On this album, he raps lyrics over foreign-produced music, such as Aksan Prod, Raponhelicenz, and Aarab Music, as well as his own creations.
“L’Apostat” is his first solo album. Released in 2016, it is seen as a critique of the cultural alienation plaguing Haitian society. His latest album, “Pou Listwa,” is a historical overview of the last ten years under the PHTK regime, marked by corruption, massacres, widespread insecurity, and violence.
Valckensy is an engaged artist. He is one of the pioneers of the Petrochallenge movement, which denounces the squandering of the Petro Caribe funds by various Haitian governments from 2006 to 2016.
He has expressed his opposition to this wastage in various ways, advocating for a fair trial. For instance, he produced a song inspired by this movement to demand accountability for the use of these funds, titled “Petrospektiv.”
K-Lib has played a significant role in amplifying the Petrochallenge movement, particularly among the Haitian diaspora.
Haitian rap is the perfect example of how art is not only entertainment but also a shelter for the people, for the creators and for the listeners. In this case, it’s a space where a whole country finds expression of their strength, empowerment, and union.
The rap scene in Haiti is flourishing, with a vibrant and diverse array of talented artists making their mark on the genre. Despite the challenges that Haiti has faced, its resilience shines through in the spirit of Rap Kreyòl.
The genre continues to evolve, with a new generation of artists pushing the boundaries and exploring new horizons. Their music reflects the realities of Haitian life while capturing the essence of the country’s rich culture and history.
So, whether you’re a fan of hip-hop or not, it’s worth diving into the world of Haitian rap, exploring the sounds and stories of these talented artists. Discover their unique perspectives, groove to their beats, and join in celebrating the vibrant and evolving Haitian rap scene.