California’s Bay Area is an historical hotspot for rap culture, turning out some of the most influential artists in hip-hop history. Tupac Shakur, E-40, and MC Hammer all helped define a distinct West Coast sound and Amari Proctor—professionally known as Haiti Babii—grew up listening and studying their music intently. The rising rapper who grew up just one hour east of San Francisco has already caught the eye of today’s most popular artists including Rihanna and Meek Mill, and he’s not slowing down.
Proctor has been building a strong fan base over the last few years and his forthcoming album, Trap Art, is his most exciting release to date. Along with the album, Haiti Babii is releasing merch designed by Tyra Myricks, the head designer of Drake’s eponymous OVO brand and daughter of hip-hop mogul Jam Master Jay.
With some solid co-signs under his belt, Haiti Babii’s key to success is a mix of originality and preparation. He’s already finished two physical workouts before 12 p.m. and then spends the rest of his day focused on songwriting, co-producing, and in-studio recording. We caught up with the Stockton Native via FaceTime and discussed the meaning behind Trap Art, working with Rihanna, and the worst advice he’s ever received.
You grew up in Stockton, which isn’t known for having any type of rap culture, what made you want to pursue a career in music?
My mom was into music, so I’ve always been her wingman when it came to her going to studios and dealing with other rappers in the Bay area. I was very cultured when it came to music, especially Bay Area music. I grew up on a lot of R&B but rapping was just natural for me.
Who was the first artist to spark your interest in rap?
The first artist you could say was Kanye, The College Dropout. Once I started getting a bit older I was able to relate to more [music] like E-40 and I started studying catalogues from my area, the West Coast, [like] NWA, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and all those cats.
The discovery of your Haitian roots was important to you, how has that shaped your identity as an artist?
I discovered it when I was young. I always knew I was Guyanese. So me naming myself Haiti Babii is just knowledge of self at the end of the day. Just like if someone finds out they’re Japanese and names themselves Japanese Kid, you look white to the crowd but you’re just letting them know, “I know who I am and I’m comfortable with who I am.”
You’re very involved in the production as well as the songwriting of your music, why is production important to you?
It’s very important because I want to give the world me, 100% Amari so they can get a better understanding of who I am. I song write and co-produce a lot of the stuff I do and the video treatments I’m involved in too—I’ve been doing that more lately during this quarantine time.
What is something about you that would surprise your fans?
I’m really into UFC and MMA. So I plan on creating my own organization and breeding my own fighters eventually but that’s later on down the line. A lot of my fans don’t know I’m a huge UFC fan.
You work out twice a day and you’ve previously discussed your strong work ethic. Where does this drive come from?
The circle I surround myself with was on the hype at first and I just adapted to that. Me being a father, that’s the extra oomph and motivation in my life. That’s what makes me wake up at 4 a.m., eat, work out at the gym at 6 a.m., leave the gym by 8 a.m., eat again when I get home and go to the gym again at 10 a.m. for conditioning. That’s what makes me do that, my circle and my family.
Is there a meaning behind the title of your new album Trap Art?
My version of trap is West Coast trap, that real Tupac, Dr. Dre and Snoop type of feeling. My version of art is more so Young Thug, Travis Scott, and Kanye West type of emotions. But the art part of it is just being myself, being artistic, not structuring my songs the same way as other artists and just thinking outside the box.
What’s different about this album than your previous releases?
This album is really for my main fanbase, this is for the streets. So I’m expressing more pain on these tracks, stuff I went through, so people who listen to me from the jump, songs like “Period,” “Fuh Nuc” that’s the feeling they get in these new records.
What is your creative process for making music?
Write at home, always come to the studio prepared. I like to go over any effects I’m going to use and any ab libs I’m going to use, I write that down. I even go back and trace how I want my mixing to be and write that down in my notes. That’s why I’m able to bust out so much work in two hours. It’s just being prepared, that’s my key.
How did your relationship with Rihanna come about and how has it been collaborating with her on music?
I got some in the works with her and that’s up to her whenever she’s going to release it. She’s very dope, she’s an inspiration to me, my family, and the whole world for years—obviously. Meek Mill is another dope person that follows me, he let me know from the jump that he’s watching me.
Have you gotten any advice from a mentor that has really stuck with you?
The worst advice I ever got was “Yolo.” The best advice I’ve ever gotten is, “You can make money back but you can’t get time back.” So once I really understood that and once I became a father, everything just meshes with that term right there.
What do you hope fans take away from this album?
I want them to really listen to this album and leave understanding Amari, understanding me. Not the stuff I did in the past, not the stuff I plan on doing in the future, just me and who I am.
How does it feel to be debuting your music during a time when live performances aren’t possible?
It’s hard because I really want to perform and that’s how you gravitate new fans and really pop. I’m levelling out the playing field with dropping consistently but at the same time, not performing, it sucks. I’m not going to dwell on the past or how my career could have gone if I could be performing right now, so we just hope for the best in the future.
You’re releasing merch along with this album, what’s the inspiration behind the designs?
The merch is just me and the vibe around the album, Trap Art. We are keeping it simple because I want to see what my crowd really gravitates towards. I’m going to try new things in the future but for this I know they’re going to love it. It’s just about being creative because there are so many styles out there but I feel like the newest thing to do is bring back old looks.
Who are some of your dream collaborators?
DJ Khaled, Kanye West, Drake, Travis Scott, Young, Thug, Rowdy, Jhene Aiko, Kehlani, Summer Walker, H.E.R, Bryson Tiller, and PARTYNEXTDOOR— he’s one of my favorite artists.