Like the best artists, rapper and hip-hop musician ZoeBaby101 has had his own fair share of painful experiences to drive his music.
Born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but raised in Haiti during his early years, playing football in the streets was his first escape. “Football and fighting a lot,” he clarified in an interview with the Atlanta-based Off the Porch video podcast. “I lost some. I won a few.” (Both football games and fights.)
After that, he was raised in Haiti for a time, and the differences between the two counties were drastic and profound for ZoeBaby101, who would spend his teen years in what would seem like luxury compared to life in Haiti.
“It’s really different,” he told Off the Porch. “You’ve got to get your own water, wash your clothes by hand, grow your own food. It’s a really different experience.”
Ultimately, that time spent exploring his background was good for him, as it changed the way he saw the world significantly. It also instilled in him a work ethic that helps him persevere no matter what size obstacles are placed in his way.
“The little stuff you take for granted, you don’t after that,” he said.
His second escape was music, but that didn’t come until much later.
Growing Up Tough
After returning to Florida, ZoeBaby101 still lacked stability because his family often moved. He tried to form in-school families, and played football for a few years in high school, but quit after his sophomore year because he did not get the encouragement he needed from home, as his mother was always working to support the family.
It was difficult for ZoeBaby101, because there was no one there for him on the sidelines when he played, and he was a talented player who may have had an opportunity for a scholarship, although there is no way to determine if that could be been true. What was true, however, was his disappointment.
“You’re playing, you’re doing good. Other kids, they had their moms on the sidelines cheering them on, and you don’t have anyone cheering you on,” he said. That letdown during his serious formative years caused ZoeBaby101 to let go of the game he loved.
Disappointment Almost Turned Dangerous
He initially turned to the streets, to people “I thought had love for me. They took me in with open arms,” he said in the “Off the Porch” interview.
He ended up incarcerated, learning that “everyone is not your friend,” and music became the source of his survival while serving time behind bars, although it is unclear for how long or on what charges.
“Music has helped me out a lot even while being locked up,” he said. “I wrote music to get through during my time while incarcerated.”
Escaping Fort Lauderdale’s gang lifestyle meant turning his back on the streets, and rival gang activity between more than 10 different groups and factions, but it forced ZoeBaby101 to rethink what he considered important in his life.
Music Tells a Life’s Story
And when he tired of playing football in the streets, he turned to rap as a way to express himself, as it was a safer and more honest place to release his angst.
“It was hard at first,” he said. “But if you really want something…”
His music is influenced by “my struggle, the things I’ve been through,” he said, adding that recording those moments to music shifts the memories, and acts as a therapeutic release, essentially a counseling session with himself.
“Music is a way for me to let go of all the pain that I have built up inside and it’s a way to tell my story,” ZoeBaby101 (Insta @ZoeBaby101 said. “My favorite thing about making music is when someone comes up to you and tells you that your song has helped them get through some hard times. That there always puts a smile on my face.”