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MIAMI — In Little Haiti, there's an underground fixture who's planning to smack the masses upside the head with his raps: Redd Eyezz. The up-and-coming MC says looks can be deceiving in his 'hood.
"You'll see one of the older guys driving around here in a bucket or hooptie, and they'll really be millionaires," Redd said. "This is one of the only 'hoods where you could go to sleep broke and the next morning, wake up a millionaire. It happens so quick."
You just have to have the right street connect. As a member of the Zoe Pound, Redd and his crew were their own hookups. The Pound's name became legendary — in Little Haiti and in 'hoods across the country — because of how they used to run the trap.
"This is where we used to trap, 24/7. One-stop shop, get everything you need," Eyezz told MTV News, standing in front of the infamous "White House" where the Pound would accumulate funds from hustling.
The White House has since been shut down by the city.
"It wasn't no initiation," Redd explained of how his clique was formed. "Because we're not a gang. We were just brothas hollering at brothas. We grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same schools as kids. So our bond was gonna be a little different than other cliques and crews. A bunch of brothers from the 'hood, all came from this particular area, from the 'hood. [We] had a few heads, about 30 of us when we originally started. The whole dream was to make it out this 'hood. It's rough out here, like every other neighborhood, but it gets to the extreme sometime. That was the whole dream: to get our families up outta here. Any source of income we was doing to get, we would put it back into music.
"The best time I probably would say is between '97, '99, 2000," he added. "It was one of our best times. We was young, 21, 22, out here doing whatever we wanna do. Travel the world. Some of the best times, making a lot of money in those times. Maybe after that, around 2001, it started coming down. We was losing homies, homies going to the pen. Some of the feelings I went through because of some of my homies I lost, I still grieve. Death comes at a crazy time, and it's always unexpected. It's always gonna hit you hard. You gotta accept it. Losing so many homies, you get numb, start losing tears. You don't even cry no more."
Two of his friends in particular — Olo and Chub — convinced Redd to take music more seriously before they passed away.
"Olo, who is no longer with us, and Chub, which is the same situation, no longer with us, and one of my other homeboys, he's in the prison. They came up with the idea to do it," Redd said. "Olo came to me personally and said he wanted to get into the music thing. I was already doing my little thing with it. Me and my homeboy [leader of the crew], Mac[-A-Zoe], Mac was locked up at the time. He was coming home, and he wanted to get into it."
The Zoe Pound became legendary street figures over the years. All the rappers shout them out. 50 Cent and the G-Unit, Rick Ross, the Game, Lil Wayne and Birdman, DJ Khaled, the Diplomats — the list goes on and on. Everyone has shouted them out in their songs. Eyezz has worked with many of them on his mixtapes, including his latest, Warning Shots.
"In hip-hop, a lot of rappers wanna be known as official and keeping it 100," Eyezz said. "That's what Zoe Pound is about. It's love for hip-hop. The influence we have on hip-hop is love. To hear somebody as big as 50, Wayne shouting us out, it's love, because they know what we about. It makes a gangsta feel good."
Eyezz has a deal to put his debut LP, Never Personal, out through Asylum Records. He said that some record executives were afraid to work with him because of the reputation that the Zoe Pound has in the streets, but they're coming around when they see that Redd is all about making music. The album was recorded over the past two years with collaborations from Cool & Dre, Lil Wayne, Jim Jones, Bun B and Rick Ross.
Redd's allegiance to his crew is still strong. He's in the midst of a "Free Mac-A-Zoe" campaign to help his incarcerated friend.