Interview: Ovi Jozi talks about his Haitian-American heritage and his new single ‘Black Hearts’

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

As a very young person living in New York City, Haitian people were in my life. One of my father’s business partners married a Haitian lady; my older siblings’ spouses also married Haitian-American people. Consequently, unique Caribbean accents were present.

As a girl in elementary school in New York City (circa 1990), I’d witnessed the ill-treatment of young Haitian people received from our peers. At the time, I didn’t think it was fair, and thankfully, Haitian people don’t have to deal with it like they used to. Haitian businesspeople all over the world are thriving and winning.

Naturally, as a person with general interests in various cultures, I feel tasked to find ways to promote each movement to the Americas. It becomes a personal assignment to spotlight the cultures. During the global pandemic, I represented a couple of Haitian artists, and along the way, as I promoted music from Africa, people wanted me to add Kompa to my arsenal. I appointed someone with a Haitian background else to help me, but they didn’t. Now, I think I am finally getting my chance to make a difference with my platform and brand.

During our short Q&A, Ovi Jozi shared which Haitian/Creole dish he thinks his art sounds like, Kompa music, his work with his music video director, and more. Here’s how it went.

GRUNGECAKE: You are a Haitian-American man that makes Rap/Hip-Hop music. Was it easy to convince your family/parents about your choice to be a recording artist?

It wasn’t easy to convince my mom at all about wanting to become a recording artist. I understood why. She came from Haiti with nothing and made it into something. It was either school or work. So, I went to college, graduated, and still decided to pursue my career as a recording artist.

GRUNGECAKE: Which artists or rappers influenced you to go down this path?

Artists that influenced me to go down this path are Kanye West, JAY Z, and Drake. I grew up listening to all three, repeatedly. A day hasn’t gone by since I had my first MP3 player that I haven’t listened to one of the three.

GRUNGECAKE: Most parents/families—not from North America—are viewed as strict or domineering. Would you describe your parents/family as such? Do you have any musical relatives or family in music?

My mom was strict because she had to. There was three boys she had to raise, so I get why she was. I’m not saying we were saints. We just never got caught because we knew who’d be waiting home for us. I’m actually the only one in my family that’s in music. Not saying no one tried to get into it, but I’m the only one who’s taken the steps to make it out of something.


GRUNGECAKE: Are you a fan of Kompa? Would you implement the sound into your music? If you could describe your music, which Haitian/Creole dish would it be and why?

I am a fan of Kompa! I feel like you can’t be Haitian if you aren’t! Also, with my music I want to try to make a song while implementing Kompa! Something smooth, but one that has my sound.

If I could describe my music with a Haitian dish it would be Tassot Cabrit, Djon Djon rice, Pikliz with Banan Pezé. What that is, is fried goat, black seasoned rice with fried plantain!

I would say that’s my music because my lyrics would be the rice. Rice goes with every Haitian meal. That’s me on any one of my tracks or me featured on one. The fried goat is compared to the creativity I bring on every track. The fried plantain and pikliz you have to have together and that’s the it factor I bring on every song.

GRUNGECAKE: How was it growing up in your city? Do you feel you’ve missed out on regional movements, not being from the City of New York? Is the area you’re from heavily populated by Haitian people?

Growing up in Newburgh was fun as a kid. There was always something to do, but as I got older a lot of the stuff I was doing got old. With me not being from the city, I did miss out on some things, but once I was able to drive I would always be down there.

The area I’m in is populated heavy with Haitians, but most are from a close city called Spring Valley!


GRUNGECAKE: How did you come across Lil Rekk? When can we expect a music video for that song/collaboration? What’s the name of the song?

I came across Lil Rekk through my bro Jai! He connected me to Lil Rekk. Then, soon after, we recorded our song at a session in the Engine Room with Jay B as the engineer. The song came out good. The song and video should be releasing later in the year along with my second tape! The title of the song is ‘City On Lock’! The song is produced by Destin Beats and Will Power.

GRUNGECAKE: You have a new music video out now for your latest song ‘Black Hearts’. What’s your relationship like with the video director? How was it working with him? What are you looking to convey with the music video?

My relationship with Viso, the one who directed the video, is great! He’s like my brother! I trust him with the creative process that he has and he always listens to what I have to say about what I want as well. But he’s a creative genius.

I’m looking to have an impact with this video. The video compliments the song so well! It allows people to visualize what I was saying. I know it’s going to go far for sure.

GRUNGECAKE: And last but not least, where does your name come from?

My name Ovi Jozi comes from my first and last name. I wanted to break down my first name and last name as simple as possible, but I wanted my name to be catchy. I wrote names down on a sheet of paper to see what would sound the best. Long story short with help of some friends and my mom I came up with Ovi Jozi. Ovi for short.

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is the North American Press Agent and US Business Manager for Oxlade; Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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