Boasting one of the largest Haitian populations in the United States, South Florida is steeped in the Caribbean nation’s influence. From an eponymous neighborhood, Little Haiti, that once served as a haven for Haitian exiles to the food, music, and Haitian Creole dialect that traverses South Florida slang, Haitian culture is a hallmark of Miami culture.
It’s one of the many reasons Haitian Heritage Month ripples through this city so strongly each May, reminding us all of Haiti’s complex history and the resiliency of its people. Anchored by Haitian Flag Day — celebrated on May 18, the day when leaders of the slave uprisings carried the nation’s first flag to pay homage to fallen soldiers in 1803 — the month-long observance also signals an often neglected triumph: Haiti was the first black-led republic to win its independence from European colonizers.
That same determination remains palpable in the music Haitian-American artists have created. South Florida notables Kodak Black, Sam Sneak, Jason Derulo, Twelve’ Len, Billy Blue, Zoey Dollaz, Steph Lecor, and Kaylan Arnold are just a handful of the artists who’ve amassed cult followings throughout the region.
Whether you prefer the seduction of R&B riffs or the grittiness of hip-hop, here’s a list of six South Florida Haitian artists who deserve spots on your playlist:
This proud Miami native’s quick-witted lyricism and versatile beats have earned him a plethora of features from Miami’s elite, including City Girls, Major Nine, Ball Greezy and Denzel Curry. With three albums under his belt — Kingz in Denial Don’t Overcome I and II and Dirty Laundry — Kiddo Marv is, Kiddo Marv quickly becoming a fixture, thanks to an infectious sound that integrates Haitian kompa-style guitars with and the distinct rhythms of his hometown. The influence of Wyclef Jean and Sam Sneak resides in Marv’s ability to flop from a syrupy hybrid of singing and rapping to his smooth cadence, all the while delivering unfiltered verses about relationships and his heritage.
Best known for her social-media comedy skits based on her Haitian upbringing, Jessie Woo is a jack of all trades. Last year she released her debut R&B album, Moods of a Cancer, combining her comedic chops (“ZoZo Appointment” and “No Wig”) with a silky vocal range that pairs perfectly with the album’s sexy undertone (“Fill Me Up” and “Unattainable”). From start to finish, the album seems to depict the strife of falling in love on summer vacation, from the lingering reminiscences about a love that’s always just out of reach to laughing at relatable hookup scenarios to dancing along with the kompa- and reggae-laced beat. The poignant concept points to Woo’s hard work at building her social-media empire as an enviable storyteller. We may be witnessing the beginning of a tremendous career.
Slip-N-Slide’s latest recruit, FSO Dinero is part of the Fly Shit Only collective and a Broward County native. Citing Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records as influences, he’s adopted the raw flow that’s become synonymous with Southern rap. In his 2019 debut album, Color Money, he uses a dark, fast-forwarded production to undergird his lust and street experiences. With notable features from City Girls, Zoey Dollaz, and Lil Dirk, Color Money proves this newcomer can contend with his Southern rap predecessors.
The Lake Worth resident initially kept his talents behind the scenes as half of the production duo the Frth. Now he’s stepped into the booth to unleash his bevy of cultural and musical references. The Afrobeat artist intertwines kompa, zouk, and reggae with up-tempo African instrumentation to form a unique cocktail of slick R&B swirled into an infectious sound. His three singles, “Juice,” “Bite,” and “Animal” featuring Serge, relay his vibrant heritage while providing a provocative soundtrack to the equally spicy lifestyles in Miami and the Caribbean. Later this year, he plans to drop an EP, which will juxtapose his work as a singer-songwriter and producer.
Kayland’s signature purple hue embodies her aura of melancholy and mystique. The R&B songstress puts a soulful spin on ’90s-era songs with lyrics that sound like the listener is eavesdropping on her private diary. She flows between the depths of a conflicted lover on “What U Do” and “Ginger” and up-tempo airy self-realization on “Coolin’.” Set somewhere between SWV and VanJess, Kayland’s music sets the vibe for a late-night smoke session or the soundtrack for a steamy date night. She evokes an ethereal mood that will have you — as her “What U Do” lyrics suggest — begging for more.
Dyna Edyne has the range to sing hypnotic melodies over a hip-hop and R&B track (L’ Suavo’s “Deep End”) or to go blow for blow over a freestyle hip-hop beat (“FTN”). Because she refused to be boxed in by R&B’s constraints, her versatility keeps fans anticipating what’s to come next. Her 2017 debut EP, Branches, showcased Edyne’s experimental productions and vocal abilities, which all seem to branch out from a musical foundation that was set down over the decades. Influenced by Jill Scott, Janelle Monáe, Erykah Badu, Rihanna, and Beyoncé, Edyne seems set on being a part of the black artists who continue to reinterpret and expand the legacy of those who came before them.