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Interview: Fresh Da Zoe – The Haitian Rapper Who’s Got It Going On!

Fresh Da Zoe
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Interview: Fresh Da Zoe – The Haitian Rapper Who’s Got It Going On!

Rapper Fresh Da Zoe unveiled his new music video, “No Sleep,” not long ago. And it’s hecka dope!

Originally from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Fresh Da Zoe grew up in a beautiful city surrounded by colossal poverty and lots of violence. Circa 2010, he moved to the U.S., where his unique sound, a blend of Southern trap, Caribbean flavors, and stellar lyricism, immediately set him apart. No one else sounds quite like Fresh Da Zoe.

His flow is what separates him from all the others. It eschews the usual monotones most rappers tend to employ: his flow is modulated, inflected, and ebbs and rises with alluring timbres.

The video depicts Fresh encompassed by gorgeous women, grand victuals, and sleek, luxury cars. Yet there’s a menacing aura about Fresh. It’s two in the morning and he can’t sleep. Sitting on the bed, he kisses his nine-millimeter, followed by clips of Fresh eating and drinking. All the while, his nine is never far away. Flying the Haitian flag at the end of the visuals, he ends it by shooting into the camera lens.

Low-slung, rife with portentous synths atop a thumping, potent trap beat, “No Sleep” hits hard and attracts beaucoup attention.

Muzique Magazine caught up with Fresh Da Zoe to find out how he got started in music, what inspired “No Sleep,” and why he makes music.

How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?

Ok, let me start by saying “Fresh” came from the way I dressed ‘cause I always keep it clean and Fresh whether I’m going to hang out with my friends or to a big event. I would just put whatever on and they would say I’m overdoing it, I’m too Fresh. Before I started rapping, they always think that I was a star like I looked like I was rapping already. In 2013, this guy came to me and said, “Do you rap?” I said, “Nah.” He said, “Nah, you look like a rapper.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “By the way you dressed and the car you drive, it just how you look in general…” I said, “Nah, bro I don’t rap.” Then he said, “If you were given the opportunity to do it, would you take it?” I said, “Yes but I was lying, lol, cause at that time I was only 3 years in America and my English was only for emergencies lol. Like if something happened to me to explain to the cops, my bosses, or ask for directions. When I first came to America, I wanted to be everything but a rapper. So, he said, “Aight. But I’m trying to create a group and I want us to be in it as a duo.” I said, “Yeah, no problem.” I went home. The next day this guy knocked on my door with his pen and paper. “Yo, Fresh, I got this new song I got the hook for. You’re going first. I’ll go second. Can I come in?” I was so confused. I kept asking myself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ I barely speak English. Now imma rap! But I love challenges. So we did it and I had the best verse on the song, and people thought I’d been doing this for a while but it was my first time in a studio. I was nervous cause there were people there when we did it. I personally don’t listen to it anymore cause when I listen to my past work, I sound nothing like I do now. But to some people, that is still one of my best songs.

Which artists influenced you the most?

Around that time when that happened, it was the Migos. They came out crazy. ‘Fire,’ I was thinking in my head. They made me wanna rap, if only I didn’t have an accent. Every time I used to listen to them, it’s like I would see myself on their beat cause they came and they made it so easy with their flow, and their beat selection. But it was just a dream for me. I never thought it would come true. But hey, it did.

What’s been your biggest challenge as an artist?

As an artist, my biggest challenge has been the fact that I have a Haitian accent, so I spend extra time in the studio to be as clear as possible, so people understand my story. But they’re loving it, just the way I’m giving it to them. So I’m good now, but right now the challenge is to break through, have more people listen to what I have to say, especially when you live in Boston where there’s nothing like hip-hop going on – it’s hard to be heard and seen.

Is your sound evolving? If so, in which direction?

A 100%. I sound nothing like I used to before. I got more confidence, became more passionate, and I’m more comfortable on the beat now. So yes, in a great direction, I’d say.

How do you keep your sound fresh?

I don’t know, it just happens. The messages always come to me in a different way with a different direction. That makes each song sound different. It really depends on how I’m feeling and what I’m writing about.

What comes first? The music or the rhymes?

When my friend first approached me to be in the duo, the fact that he was way ahead of me English-wise, I was going crazy. I was writing every day, studying. The process made my English better, too, by the way. But yeah, I was so motivated I would even write literally in my sleep. While I was driving, I would see stuff popping out my windshield as words, so at that time the lyrics would always come first cause most of the time Lima would write the hook and his verse and send it to me to add my verse. And I’d just go to my notebook, pick the best verse that fits with the topic, and put it together. I was always ready, but now it’s kinda both. I wrote “No Sleep” with no beat; then I found the beat. But the beat wasn’t really going the way I was going. I just made some adjustments. So yes, it’s both now. Sometimes the lyrics come first, sometimes the music.

Why do you make music?

At first, it was forced, as I said. I wanted to be everything except a rapper, but I don’t like saying no. I don’t like to lose. I don’t like showing my weakness. I don’t like showing I can’t do something. I got to try it and see if I fail. And most of the time, I’ve never failed cause I always give my best and all I got. Then I saw people starting to like it, telling me I can really do this cause I sound different. No one else has that sound.

And it made me think two things: first, you can do whatever you want and become whoever you want, if you put your mind to it. That could motivate a lot of people that have talent but are insecure about their Haitian, Spanish, or Chinese accents. And second, when I blow up, it won’t be just me, but the whole country will be up. You hear about a lot of artists, but you don’t even know if they’re Haitians and who’s Haitian. There are some artists that are big right now that I never knew they were Haitians till they post something for Haitian flag day or they’re on the news. But me, you know it. You hear it and see it. Even my name tells you that I’m a Zoe (Haitian). So I make music to show and tell my people there’s hope as long as you are willing to try.

What’s the story behind the name Fresh Da Zoe?

Well, I’ve already answered some of that, so let’s finish it. The word ‘Fresh’ has been in my name for a very long time, since Haiti in middle school. They used to call me Lil Fresh for the same reason that I mentioned above cause I like to dress – some people would call it flashy.

As I got older, I changed it to Fresh cause I wasn’t little anymore. When I came to America, the girls started calling me Freshman, simply cause I just came to America, like I just got to high school, get it? Freshman… 

Till today, some of my close friends still call me Freshman but I always like to be called Fresh for short. When my friend came to me about the duo thing, my name was Fresh and the group was called Freshmen cause we were Fresh in the game, since we were a duo. He started making his solo music and we fell off.  We went our separate ways. He went solo and neither of us made any music for a year or two. And I started seeing a bunch of ‘Freshes’ from everywhere, Jamaicans, Haitians, even Africans, plus a bunch of other rappers got that name. But like I said, I want people to never forget that I’m Haitian, so I went and added  “Zoe” to it; then I changed it to “DA” Zoe and made “No Sleep” to introduce the world to Fresh Da Zoe.

What was the inspiration for your new single/music video “No Sleep?”

The inspiration behind “No Sleep” was a wash-up, a cleanup of my entire life. I had cut all my friends off, even some females that I had in my life when I realized they weren’t with me for real. It was just for what I could do for them and the females liked the shine but were doing grimy shit behind my back. The people that I used to sit and eat with wanted me, probably still want me, dead. It was a crazy situation. Life is crazy niggas envy you and get jealous of you for nothing, and they’re the same people you’re taking care of. So like I said in the song, it was 2:00 a.m and things like that were keeping me up, so I had to start writing.

What do you want people to take away from the video?

“The lessons, ” Moral of the story is: “Cut out your Grass and you will see all the snakes in your yard.” You could’ve been so far in life if you had fewer friends surrounding you. With those who want you to win, y’all gon win together. The others don’t matter, trust me. You’ll eat better. You’ll see the lobster, lol.

Where was the video shot and who directed it?

The video was shot in Everett, Boston, and Worcester, Massachusetts. I directed the video. Everything you see in the video, all the actions or shots, was how I wanted my Boy Majorvisuals to take them. Shoutout to my boy @majorvisual. He is a God behind that cam. He’s very understanding; he listens; he’s easy to work with. We put this together very well. Thank you, Bro.

How are you handling the coronavirus situation?

Well, like everybody, there’s nothing we can do about that virus. Let it do its thing, while I do mine. It sucks cause it takes bread away from a lot of people but it gave me time to come with better music, so…

Looking ahead, what’s next for Fresh Da Zoe?

I’m thinking to drop a mixtape soon. That’s next. But I’m hearing singles is the way to go as I’m still trying to get my name out there. I’m still undecided, but go check out my new songs on SoundCloud, Spotify, everywhere, and most importantly, go stream “No Sleep.” Watch that video 1000 times, and share, share, share. 

The next video bout to be crazy. I’m still undecided which video to put out after “No Sleep,” but let’s wait and see. Either way, a new video will be dropping soon.

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Tinker Talavera is a music lover, author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.


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