Meet Zoey Dollaz: Miami’s Haitian Culture-Clasher

BET Digital’s PRELUDE presents Zoey Dollaz.

Zoey Dollaz’s brand of hip-hop is a colliding of cultures. The Port-au-Prince native spent much of his early life in the Haitian capital, as his mother ventured back and forth between there and the States to build a business and pursue a better life for her family. Finally immigrating to Miami’s crime-ridden Allapattah neighborhood, the rapper, born Elvis Millord, was met with a transition that included language barriers and bullying from his young peers. But his roots were built for it.

“I mean I came from Haiti,” he said. “There ain’t much that is tougher than that, being from a third world country, to be real with you.”
Like most mothers from foreign countries, Zoey Dollaz’s strict, driven matriarch stressed the necessity of education and implored her son to stay off the streets. Embedded with a hustler’s mentality (by way of his mother’s transportation company), little Elvis would go as far as he could with his mother’s advice before switching gears altogether — thanks to his discovery of hip-hop. Scavenging through his older sister’s CDs, Zoey discovered the likes of Big L, DJ Clue, Lloyd Banks and his idol: Jay-Z. As imitation served as his best form of flattery, he began to create his version of rhymes by piecing together Rap City freestyles: a Jay bar here, a Lloyd bar there. Later, we would rev things up with his own words by isolating the instrumentals through his headphones.
“You know how you put the headphones inside the plug a little bit? So, it would knock out the vocals and you would just hear the beat,” he explained of his premature years. “That’s how I used to listen to instrumentals. With the headphones, the auxiliary that it has, if you stick it in just a little bit you’re gonna knock out the bass and the vocals. So, you will hear straight instrumentals.”

By seventh grade, Zoey knew he wanted to rap, and in a turn of events no one saw coming, his mother would pay for his first studio session. Finding confidence in the fact that he was able to emulate some of his favorites, the young rapper began to believe that he could be someone’s favorite as well. This belief later molded itself into “Blow a Check,” a Zoey Dollaz hit single that would go from local acclaim to the national stage thanks to a remix featuring Diddy and French Montana. A remix that was birthed by a night at the Bad Boy mogul’s house.

“Puff ended up coming outside with us with this white robe on,” Zoey recalled. “He said, ‘It’s you right?’ He said, ‘You got a dope song, we gotta do something with it, we gonna make something happen.’ You know people always talking and stuff, so I’d be like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ But he was like, ‘Yeah we gonna make something happen man.’”
And something did happen. The remix video has garnered over 2.4 million views to date, nearly doubling an already impressive million-plus views from its original predecessor. Following his debut mixtape, Love, Money & Bullets, and the success of “Blow a Check,” Zoey Dollaz managed to grab the attention of one of the biggest names in today’s hip-hop climate: Future. The Atlanta rapper would later serve as the conduit to Zoey fulfilling a lifelong dream of signing to Epic Records, in partnership with Future’s Freebandz imprint. He remembers his meeting with L.A. Reid like it was yesterday.

“I was performing, I did the first song he was vibing, second song he stood up, third song he was like, ‘Man are you hearing this?’ I did five songs for him,” he recounted. “On the fifth song, I performed this song, ‘I F**k Wit U.’ He was like, ‘Aw man,’ clapping and saying, ‘Can someone help give this man some clap?’ And then I went out of the room and they stayed back and then my A&R Jermaine walked back out the room and was like, ‘Welcome to Epic Records, man, you got it.’”

Taking it back to his Haitian roots, Zoey’s Port-au-Prince mixtape began his on-wax relationship with Future, and featured a number of his contemporaries: Lil’ Durk, Casey Veggies, K Camp and others. His latest EP, M’ap Boule, is yet another reference to his roots, the namesake of Haitian creole wordplay.

“I feel like this album is just about vibes for real,” Zoey details about his newest effort. “I titled it M’ap Boule because ‘m’ap’ means I’m and ‘boule’ means burning. So, I’m bringing it, I’m on fire. I titled it that. Because I just wanted to keep it to my roots where I come from. Even though I was born here, I consider myself Haitian, Haitian-American of course. I always to rep them and show the love. I want to be the person who shows the world the side of Haiti that people don’t show. So, that’s why I titled it. I did Port-au-Prince now I’m doing M’ap Boule.”

When others are asked what they see in Zoey Dollaz’s future, talk of moguldom comes from everyone’s mouths, including the man’s mouth himself. But more immediately, the rising star just wants one thing.

“First and foremost, I want to be one of the biggest artists that ever come out of Florida. One of the biggest.”

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