In nearly every video he drops, the 31-year-old rapper, born Emmanuel Alexis, is surrounded by tricked-out sports cars, wads of cash, and gorgeous models. Tafia rocks his Dream Chasers chain as he stunts for the camera for songs like “SF3” and “Walk.” He plays it cool whenever he links up with high-profile artists and athletes like Rick Ross and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Off-camera, Tafia, who began rapping while serving a seven-year prison sentence, has managed to persevere no matter how many plot twists arise. On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, New Times found the Haitian spitta at his go-to recording studio, Blue Hill in North Miami Beach. It had been six days since he eluded death in a fiery car crash with an 18-wheeler truck.
“My whole femur, my thighs is fucked up,” Tafia tells New Times. “I'm black and purple under these shorts. I got stitches. I don't even know how many. All I know is my [elbow] was split open. My nose was bleeding too.”
In the early hours of April 15, Tafia was on his way home from a meeting, driving in the eastbound lanes of State Road 112 near Northwest 12th Avenue, when his SUV was cut off by a tractor-trailer, which resulted in 100 gallons of gasoline spilling onto the highway. The “Savage” rapper was able to escape from the vehicle and leave the scene with his life intact, but he’s still got a battle scar and injuries that require physical therapy.
Prior to the accident, Tafia’s price had gone up. Once projects like Gorilla Drippin and Street Fanci infiltrated streaming platforms in 2017, Tafia hit the ground running and began his ascension to fame. Uplifted by loyal fans, the Miami native’s music eventually garnered the attention of artists like Zoey Dollaz and Roc Nation rapper Meek Mill.
Before he went to prison in 2017, Meek Mill was introduced to Tafia’s music by DJ E-Money. Soon after his release in April 2018, Meek Mill returned to the 305, met Tafia in person, and signed him to his Dream Chasers imprint.
"I didn't stop doing what I was doing,” Tafia says about what he did after Meek Mill went to jail. “I kept going. We in Miami. How often is it for someone to get picked up? Then [Meek Mill] called me one day and said, 'Yo, Taf, we up and running. What you wanna do? If you fly to New York, you're my first-round draft pick.'"
Tafia signed to Dream Chasers last year just as the lockdown was descending. That didn’t stop him from working with Meek Mill directly. In 2020, Tafia dropped two mixtapes, Street Fanci 3 and Fanci No. 9 with Major Nine, on Dream Chasers.
"He made it more personal,” Tafia says of working with Meek Mill. “I guess it's because he done dealt with so much fuck shit, so he made it more personal. He gives me advice when I need it, tells me when not to do certain things. He tells me what mistakes he made and what not to do or not to fall into this trap and that trap. Just shit like that to stay out the way. With the working part, he doesn't tell me anything extra."
These days, Tafia is focused on moving forward and dropping new music. For the past few months, he’s kept impatient fans at bay by dropping freestyles. He has also been teasing Street Clarity: Gangsta Grillz, a collection of 11 tracks that dropped last Friday. The project features Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Jackboy, and Bobby Fishscale.
"Street Clarity is like — I thought about a good quality diamond but still in the rough,” Tafia says. “I'm street but I'm going to give you the bright side to it. I'm gonna tell you about the street shit and I'm going to tell you about the good parts — the clarity. I'm gonna break it down for you if nobody else ain't break it down for you."
The buzz surrounding the project didn't dim, even after a recent run-in with police. Shortly after New Times met with Tafia, the rapper was arrested for fraud connected with a transfer of more than $360,000 over Walmart’s wire service.
Tafia was released from jail last Thursday but did not respond to follow-up questions from New Times about the arrest.
It seems no brush with death or legal entanglement will deter Tafia from success.
“I just want to be a motivation and let people know life,” he says. “You can be at your worst point of life, but as long as there's another outlet at the end of the tunnel, it's never closed off.”