“I'm still working on music videos. We've been busting out videos [and] still been recording and mixing and mastering my new album.” On the other end of the line is Haiti Babii, speaking from quarantine in his hometown of Stockton, California.
His name should ring a bell if you were one of the 700,000 and counting who viewed his now-viral appearance on Real 92.3 LA’s radio show, Bootleg Kev & DJ Hed, in May 2019, where he delivered a freestyle so unusual that it’s still being talked about to this day.
While it’s not the introduction he’d envisioned, he’s running with it. “I got a Rihanna [and] Meek Mill follow. I recorded three tracks with Hit-Boy after that freestyle,” the 22-year-old told BET.com. “My life changed after I did that freestyle.”
Haiti Babii is currently gearing up for the release of his first full-length album, Californian Haitian. He’d already been working on the project before the world went on social-distancing lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I already was working on it. The pandemic, it tried to mess everything up,” he says. “But my team just kept pushing. They’re unstoppable. So I kept pushing.”
In late April, Haiti Babii dropped a music video for the lead single, which shares the same title as his album. While he’s been busy cooking in the studio, he also learned of some other good news. He shared that he has a baby girl on the way. “That’s been motivating, for sure,” he said. “Once I realized the responsibility of having a daughter, I just like I gotta get the ball rolling. So I started just pushing crazy and calling my team every day back to back.”
Another visual is slated to drop at the end of this week on May 15 for his single, “Hail Mary Flintstones,” and Haiti Babii checked in with BET.com to discuss what’s changed for him, how his Haitian roots influenced his forthcoming album, what it was like working with Hit-Boy, and more. If you think you know the Stockton-native based off of just one freestyle, then you’ve barely scratched the surface.
BET.com: You recently dropped your latest single, “California Haitian.” What was the significance behind the song’s title?
Haiti Babii: It was a huge step. I didn't know too much but jumping into it was a huge step for me cause it was a way for me to understand who I am and feel comfortable with myself. It's not a huge community out here. So I was like, ‘You know what? I'ma rep even though it's not a lot of people out here like me.’ I’ma come hard with it. My mother is full Guyanese, so I was always comfortable with that. I look more Guyanese more than anything.
BET.com: What can you tell us about the next single you’re about to release?
HB: We’re working on a new single called “Hail Mary Flintstone.” We are working on that video. It's a pop song. I like to party so it's really a turn-up song for the world.
BET.com: May 2nd marked a year since you dropped your viral freestyle on Real 92.3. What comes to mind when you look back at that moment?
HB: I look at that moment and I still get excited ‘cause it's like no one will ever forget it. I just be like, ‘Man, I went viral.’ No matter how big I get, I still got moments in my career where I've taken off. But, the big lesson in that is you can't just pop one. You can't just go viral once. You gotta keep going. Once you start a fire, you gotta keep it burning.
BET.com: What do you feel has changed for you since you went viral?
HB: I got over a hundred thousand followers after that freestyle. I got a blue check mark after the freestyle. I got a Rihanna [and] Meek Mill follow. I recorded three tracks with Hit-Boy after that freestyle. My life changed after I did that freestyle.
BET.com: Did you expect some of the reactions that you got after the freestyle? There were those who didn't understand it and then there were those who were excited about it.
HB: Granted, everybody laughed and everything. I expected that. I did not expect the impact. The fame that came out that, I didn’t expect that. I just expected people to laugh and go back to my original music and check me out. But, it got so big I was like, ‘Damn, this is bigger than I thought.’ It was huge. I thought in my head of Young Thug, other artists who do crazy things. I didn't think mine would be that abstract, that abnormal, that unorthodox. I thought the world was prepared for that and it wasn't.
BET.com: Last year when we interviewed you, you mentioned that you were working with Hit-Boy. What has it been like working with someone so steeped in the industry?
HB: He from [California] and I’m from [California]. He was coming at me like ‘I have to look after my own. You a Cali artist and emerging so I've got to have one with you.’ That's how he came about it. And I was like, man that’s love, you feel me? He looked at it like he got to reach out like a big brother almost in the industry. He [saw] the freestyle so he was just like I got to see what you workin’ with. He put me to the test and we had fun.
BET.com: Can you describe like the first time you went into the studio with him and what that was like?
HB: First time I went into the studio with him, I [saw]] Iman Shumpert and Teyana Taylor pulling up so I didn't know if I was at the right place. I pull up and I see Hit-boy waiting for me in a Bentley. He hopped out and he was like ‘Hey, T.T.’ I was like, ‘Oh s**t, he just randomly knows stars.’ I hollered at him. We started talking it up. He went through a catalog of beats. Once I picked [a beat], he cut everything off. He started talking to me and gave me the rundown on how he got his feet in the industry. He just started vibing [and] really conversing with me.
BET.com: That’s so dope. Did you expect him to reach out to you?
HB: Around that time, when I linked up with Hit-Boy, the world [and] we on the West coast was still adapting to Nipsey Hussle’s death. He knows what type of environment I come from. I come from a Crip neighborhood. That's [how] it came about. He just was going to f**k me off the rip. I didn't expect this but it’s love. I got some pop records with him. I got some funky records with him and I got some gangster records with him that's for the streets [like] “California Haitian.”
BET.com: What's one single from your album that you can't wait for fans to hear?
HB: “Hail Mary Flintstones.” That's my personal favorite. My second favorite is “Teflon.” I came up with that when I got locked down and got back out. So, “Teflon” is a deep song. Both of my producers, on the same night, passed away in a car accident in Los Angeles a month ago. They did a lot of the mixing and mastering on my album, [and] “Hail Mary” is by Hit-Boy.
BET.com: How did you come up with the name “Hail Mary Flintstones?”
HB: In the Bay area, that means “pimping.” Hail Mary is a long pass [and] Flintstone is feet. You run fast with your feet so “Hail Mary Flintstones.” E-40 originated it but people don't know that. Too $hort, E-40, Mac Dre, and Suga Free used that term multiple times but in records that people don’t really know. When I heard it, I was like ‘Ok, I’ma use that one.’ They are the OGs from Northern California so that made the game free for me.
BET.com: It’s interesting you say that because it feels like it's been awhile since a new artist emerged from the Bay Area until Saweetie, although there’s R&B singers like Kehlani. What would you say the Bay area rap scene looks like right now?
HB: The market is not there. If you’re from the Bay and want to pop, you got to go to LA. G-Eazy, he been left the Bay [area] and went on to Los Angeles. That's just the way it is. It’s gonna be like that for awhile ‘cause the South runs the game right now. You're gonna see a lot of people from the West, New York, Texas, and Memphis. Everything is going to slowly sound like Atlanta. Everybody is going towards that style. There's no longer people trying to fit in with reggae songs or something like that. That's why I'm trying to be different. Then, you got people out there in the world like SAINt JHN that’s just different. I just want to be in that different class.
BET.com: What you're hoping to do next after this album?
HB: More videos. More music. We ain't gonna stop. I want to get the game by a chokehold, keep dropping, and keep showcasing my talent [while] entertaining everybody. Once I got everything in my notebook out to the world, I want to go on tour. I want to go on tour with another artist. I want to just keep popping.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo: Josh Libertine)