Adopted at the age of 2 from an orphanage in his native Port Au Prince Haiti as he suffered from a tape worm days away from his eternal demise, Stephon Rene was granted new life as he was relocated to the northern part of Minnesota. Dissuaded from Hip Hop as a youngster, his parents made the effort to lessen the likelihood that his story would read like the typical black youth relying on music or a jump shot. In light of this, his older sister acknowledged his love for the music and would secretly supply his hunger for more of the sounds pioneered by the likes of NWA, Tupac, and Biggie and later on Kanye West, 50 Cent and Chris Brown.
“It was like a taboo that I couldn’t resist. The world seemed to try to prevent me from becoming a rapper but you can’t deny destiny. I moved to the cities and became a major artist here with numerous viral videos.”
Check out the exclusive interview on his story below:
OnTheSceneNY: What is your earliest memory of the impact that the music of Hip Hop had on you?
Stephon Rene: I fell in love with rhythm the first time I heard rap in a song. I loved how the words flowed. Later, I grew an even greater appreciation when I realized the rich and artistic literature within the songs. The very figurative language I found to be almost tantalizing within poems and books such as: word play, similes, metaphors, word correlations, idioms, personification, ambiguity and more. Unknowingly at the time, the first rap I heard on the radio, I found myself memorizing it each time it aired. It felt amazing to sway the words into a rhythmic pattern. Rhythm and literature have always been an important part of my life. I was a percussionist for 8 and a half years as well as a poet for my friends and family. Poems turned into raps, raps turned into songs, songs turned into videos, and videos went viral.
OnTheSceneNY: As a child you are indoctrinated with respect for your parents, and a core belief that what they say precedes your own thought of right and wrong?
Stephon Rene: I love and respect my parents don’t get me wrong. It’s just that sometimes you have to follow your heart. As cheesy as that sounds. Thinking of the moment I got everyone in my family to believe and encourage me 100% was so encouraging. My father told me that his parents doubted him becoming an engineer. They suggested that he find something more realistic but he followed his dreams. Now he’s the Vice President of snowmobile for Arctic Cat. He told me that sometimes parents suggest something “more realistic” because they want the best for their kids and don’t want them to fail. Then He told me to follow my dreams no matter what anyone, even he says.
My sisters, who when I first started rapping, told me “Stop your too white washed to rap”, are now my biggest supporters. My mother who doesn’t like rap, and was worried about my morals being changed by the industry, is now proud of me, encourages me, and reminds me to stay focused. It is also because of her that I will never change my moral compass. I have no animosity or resentment to those who first doubted me. I would have doubted myself too had I known how ignorant and terrible I first sounded. I thank them because it was their ‘hard to impress’ mindset that first fueled myself to grow and become better.
OnTheSceneNY: It is impressive that someone your age marks NWA as an influence – what was it about their music and presence that made you gravitate to their movement and impact on the culture?
Stephon Rene: Their freedom to speak their mind. They expressed frustration, aggression and recklessness that I can only describe as freedom. In my music, I will never pretend to be something or someone I’m not. Being yourself as an artist isn’t a right, it’s a luxury many fail to hold onto. You can hear aggression, frustration, and recklessness absorbed into my music as well. Being who I am or showing how I feel regardless of any opposition is what many have stated they respect about me as well. It was NWA that showed me you don’t need to mold yourself into what society wants you to be, to become successful.
OnTheSceneNY: Many consider Kanye West to be one of the legendary musical minds; what is an element from his genius that you have incorporated into your brand?
Stephon Rene: I like that you say “element” because I want to first say that no one can recreate Kanye West’s artistic or musical abilities. I love how he thought outside the box with his music. He always has vocals of some kind all throughout his music. I utilize vocals in many different ways as verses, hooks, and ambient sounds to add to the mood and emotion of my music. Though I don’t constantly do so, I use ambient vocals or harmonies to add to an energetic progression within my hooks. I also appreciate his dedication. Like when he had his mouth wired shut, yet still recording a whole song “Through the Wire”. I try to model myself with this level of commitment as well. Though I was losing my voice for my birthday bash, I still performed for over an hour. Though crushing the left side of my body in a work accident. I still traveled a half a mile through slippery territory in the woods with crutches to get to a photo shoot location. This was only a day after leaving the hospital. The way I see it, if you want something bad enough, nothing can stop you.
OnTheSceneNY: What are your sentiments as you think back on being adopted and how life took a turn for the better?
Stephon Rene: I am seriously blessed. When I was adopted, I was malnourished, had a tape worm in my stomach, and was close to my end. I was blessed to be adopted into an amazing and rightfully strict family. I grew up being taught the mentality that If you want something in this world, you must earn it. This still helps me on a day to day basis to achieve what many believe to be impossible. Now I want to become a successful artist, inspire others to follow their dreams and to establish a system to better assist third world countries in helping themselves. Every day I carry a weight on my shoulders. The weight of the deaths of my orphan brothers and sisters. If I was so close to death as an orphan, I can’t pretend like all the others who weren’t adopted, survived poverty. Every one of them had unlimited potential. They could have been doctors saving lives, or scientists that made a great discovery. They could have found the cure for cancer. They could have found god. They never got the chance to live an extraordinary life. Since I did, I find it to be my responsibility to do everything in my power to make a difference. I pride myself with this responsibility, be it healthy or not, I use this to give me the strength to wake up every morning. The strength to do everything in my power to get a step closer to my goals.