For young men, the streets of urban Haiti can be rough.

At least that was the experience of Stephon René, indisputably a survivor. Born in Port au Prince, Haiti, Stephon began his life as an infant suffering from a tapeworm infection and the very real possibility of death. After his adoption by an American family, René’s path filled with renewed health and opportunity. 

Music became his nourishment. René applied himself to building skills of expression and song to send positive affirmations to all who listen to his music. Today, as an established rapper, singer, dancer, and choreographer, he  combines his raw truth with beats to lift people up. Some of his best known mottos include  “OK OK!”, “OK OK Stephon René” chant, and:

“I am alive and I am OK.” — artist Stephon René.

Listening to music that really gets into your head should carry messages of hope, inspiration, strength, positivity, an empowerment, says René. Grit Daily got personal with René about his journey, inspiration, and latest music.

Grit Daily: For the uninitiated, share your story of survival. Things started out tough?

Stephon René taps into inner vocals and chords after some pretty unruly early life experiences.

Stephon René: First I would like to thank Grit Daily for this Q&A. I am honored to be featured.

I happened to face many trials and tribulations within my life, but I feel they are responsible for my character. I was adopted from Port au Prince, Haiti around the age of two and a half.

My actual birthday is unknown. When I was adopted, I was extremely malnourished with a tapeworm in my stomach. I was so little that I couldn’t even crawl yet. Things started out tough to say the least, but it acts as a constant reminder that life is never guaranteed. It is my responsibility to make the best of it.

GD: What is the meaning of family to you?

SR: I have no knowledge of my blood relatives, so to me, family is based on bonds. Those who you cherish and cherish you. Love is thicker than blood. If I’m being honest with myself, there were times that I wondered if my family loved me for me, or because they felt they had an obligation since adopting me. Something I believe all adoptees ponder. I was lucky to have been adopted into a loving family. My Caucasian mother even told me she forgets she didn’t give birth to me.

I have never forgotten that amazing realization that I am as loved as my siblings by both my mother and father. Family means the world to me. Having a mother, step-mother, and six sisters, turned out to be the most dangerous blessing I would have never asked for. All joking aside—because of them, I have always had the blessing to bare witness to the unbelievable strength, love, and willpower that women have. The older I got, the more I was able to obtain a deep appreciation, respect, and admiration, for females in general.

GD: How do you view the US now?

SR: I believe every country has its ups and downs. America is my home, and I will always love it unconditionally. That said, I would like to see things like toxic masculinity addressed as well as an improvement in the treatment of black people and women. I have met so many amazing individuals with great hearts and drive. Though being a rare occurrence, along my journey, I have had the pleasure of meeting and teaming up with amazing individuals.

The fierce and beautiful women in the Miss René’s would be a perfect example. I created a modeling agency with a branch in both Minnesota and throughout Australia called “Miss René’s.” We believe that females no longer need to abide by the social standards of society that men have placed before them. A belief that shifts the perception of what beauty is. America is a melting pot of ethnicities. We aim to show that there is beauty in every ethnicity, race, style, and personality, a female may have. 

GD: How does your life experience work its way into your music?

SR: Being in such poor shape while I was in the orphanage is enough to make me realize that not all the kids make it to their adoption. To be a child means to have unlimited potential. One could have potentially found the cure for cancer, became a doctor and saved lives, made a great discovery, changed how we view things or even change the world. They could have found God.

Because of them being robbed of their potential, I took it upon myself to strive to do something monumental. With my passion and love for music, I knew It would have to be in that realm. I am an emotional rapper. Defying the stigma of having to consistently be “manly” and emotionless. I aim to make music that people can relate to—be it about heartbreak, love, anxiety, depression, anger, happiness, pain and more. I aim to let people know that they are never alone, while simultaneously using my platform to raise awareness of toxic masculinity that not even I am a deviant of.

GD: Which artists would you love to work with?

SR: There are so many artists I would love to work with—I wouldn’t be able to list them all. A few major ones would have to be Joyner Lucas, Hopsin, Cardi B, Eminem, Khalid, Arianna Grande, Camila Cabello, 6black, Dax, and Post Malone. 

GD: Few choreographers get public credit. Who has been most underrated that you’ve worked with so far?

SR: I actually haven’t worked with any other choreographers yet. That being said, I couldn’t agree more. It’s rare for choreographers to get public credit. Hopefully that is something that changes soon. It’s not easy to create a choreography from scratch. You must feel the rhythm and envision the movements of usually not just one, but multiple individuals moving in synergy.

The most difficult part is creating it for another rather than yourself. There are many factors to keep in mind. All I know is that if I work with any other choreographers, I will personally ensure they receive the credit they deserve.

Looking for more Grit Daily coverage of artists? Check our our music archives.