Haiti Babii got his first tattoo when he was a junior in high school. It was a few crosses etched onto his neck and, despite questions about his ability to make something out of his life, he wasn’t worried because he knew he was going to be an artist.
That artistry was on full display earlier this month when Haiti Babii, born Amari Amil Proctor, delivered an off-the-wall freestyle for L.A. hip-hop powerhouse Real 92.3 that instantly went viral.
The following video contains coarse language.
The 21-year-old from Stockton spent two minutes beatboxing, whispering and squealing high-pitched notes, all woven into a story about a dragon. The internet went wild. Chance the Rapper, Swae Lee and Chrissy Teigen lauded Haiti Babii for his vocal acrobatics. Others were not amused and wrote off Haiti Babii as mentally unstable, but he relished all the comments, good and bad.
“That’s an ingenious decision I made,” he says of his choice to do an unconventional freestyle. “That’s art. Art’s not something you want to love. You hate to love it.”
The freestyle serves as a bridge between Haiti Babii’s small catalog — including April’s “Warrior” project — and his forthcoming projects, which he says will include all the frenetic elements showcased in the freestyle.
“What’s interesting about Haiti Babii is he actually can rap,” says DJ Hed, the radio host whose perplexed live reaction quickly became a meme-able GIF.
Haiti Babii found his voice when he discovered his Haitian heritage at age 17. He researched his biological father’s last name and learned he is third-generation Haitian. He grew up with his mother and stepfather, but the connection to his paternal family gave him a sense of identity.
Growing up, Haiti Babii was full of energy but couldn’t find ways to channel it. In two separate incidents as a teenager, he was shot by the police and was arrested in a case that was later dismissed. While he was in jail, he read books such as Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” and Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”
“I learned to put my rage into a hard work ethic, determination and empowerment,” he says.
Since the freestyle, Rihanna has followed him on Instagram and Haiti Babii’s streaming numbers have doubled. He has two shows lined up, one in Los Angeles on Friday at Catch One and another in Fresno in June supporting New York rapper Young M.A.
No matter what the future holds, he is confident that the freestyle has already secured his place in history.