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Quiet as it’s kept, Haitian culture has been contributing to American urban culture for quite some time now. Multi-platinum singer Usher, hip hop record spinner DJ Whoo Kid, actress Zoe Saldana, TV producer Mona Scott, Wyclef Jean, Future and Kodak Black all have deep roots in the tiny, all-Black island republic.
Bringing their own norms, values and flavors to the fabric of Americana, descendants of this Caribbean country built on the backs of uprising slaves have made momentous impacts on our daily lives. Adding their contributions of music to this long list of talented Haitian descendants is South Florida-based hip hop duo Fwey.
Building upon their Haitian pedigree, adding it to their native Miami breeding grounds and mixing it with Mid-West influences, blood brothers Zoe (Elie Jean) and Zone (Simon Jean) have cultivated a unique hip hop style like never before heard. Over the years, they have developed a strong and growing fan base with a string of successful singles and an independentmixtape released through their own record label aptly named We the Label.
On the heels of their tentatively self-titled follow-up project scheduled to be released this year, this band of brothers is set to make a major mark on the world of rap music.
“Our sound got a different flavor to it because it’s fully Southern. It’s not fully Mid-Western, and it’s not fully Caribbean,” Zone explains. “It’s like a good melting pot, actually. Like a good Haitian soup.”
The brothers began brewing that flavorful melting pot of Haitian soup in the working class Miami community of Little Haiti. Although they were both born in Miami, their immigrant parents made sure that the children were instilled with strong family ties and an awareness of both their American and Haitian cultures.
With a total of eight kids growing up in the household, life wasn’t easy in the Jean household. So to escape the dangers of Little Haiti, the family packed up and moved to the frozen tundra of Minnesota when Zoe and Zone were still in their early teens. One of their older sisters got accepted into college in St. Paul, and their father felt it was best if the family followed. Possibly a change of scenery would reward them with a better life.
“It was something else,” Zoe admits. “You can imagine being Florida kids, especially Miami boys and growing up with that culture and moving up to somewhere with snow and five percent black. It was a culture shock but we adjusted.”
But with barely any money, their new life in Minnesota didn’t seem much different than before. While living in Minnesota, every child had different personalities and interests that were beginning to unfold. Older brother Zoe was an athlete early on and was known to be a rising basketball star.
Zone, on the other hand, has always been musically inclined and always had a true passion for music since the time he could talk. As a toddler, he started beating on books to make a rhythm, graduated to a keyboard as an adolescent and later matured as an incredible, self-taught music producer.
“I was doing music young. I was always the producer type,” Zone recalls. “And when I heard my brother rap back in high school, I knew had the talent. I used to tell him ‘boy, you can really spit.’”
Naturally, the brothers joined forces. They collaborated with four other artists and formed a group called the HoodStarz.
The group garnered a fan base between Saint Paul and Minneapolis performing on every stage that they could. In 2009, however, Zone and Zoe parted ways from their group and formed their own duo. They adopted the name Fwey, which means “fresh” in Créole.
“Everything we do is fresh,” Zoe explains. “It’s a fresh new sound, a fresh new look, a fresh new attitude to the game so everything is fwey.”
In 2013, they dropped their debut project entitled The Beginning, featuring the runaway track “Take Your Girl” featuring Gucci Mane.
“Our music is a mixture of down South hip hop with Mid-West with a little Caribbean. We don’t like to put ourselves in a box because it’s a mixture,” says Zone. “One day, you may hear a turn-up track and then you may hear a pop type of track. We got different influences, and we bring them all to the table.”
Over the next few years, they have been continued to bring their different flavors to the table with singles such as “Something Different Than Swagg” and the politically charged “Black Man Down.” They have also recorded with highly respected Miami rapper Brisco as well as two tracks with platinum production duo Cool and Dre.
Now, the group is awaiting the release of their tentatively self-titled project on their own independent imprint We the Label.
“We are able to do us in our music,” says Zone. “We don’t got to put out a track that sounds like this or sounds like that. We got our own twist. Everything is original; everything about our sound is true to us.”
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