From France to Congo, to NYC and Canada and back to New York, rapper/ producer Young Paris’s star has been burning brighter with every dance step and drum beat he’s rocked since mid-last year, when his adopted part-time home here in Montreal began to embrace his international blend of styles and signature melodies. He made particularly loud noise at last fall’s edition of POP Montreal, and from summer through winter it was nearly impossible not to see him out and about, either giving it with his extremely energetic live performance, or taking it all in when other talents came to town.
Yesterday, his new video premiered on the Afropunk fest website, garnering over 20,000 views on his Facebook page alone in the span of hours. Cult MTL has been familiar with Paris’s talents but we figured this was a good time for our readers to get familiar, before his inevitable return to bigger venues and brighter possibilities. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Young Paris.
Darcy MacDonald: Please introduce yourself! Where you from, where you been, where you at?
Young Paris: My name is Milandou Badila, son of Andre & Pamela Badila, brother of 10 beautiful siblings who love and entertain through music, art and dance. I am a rapper, creative director and founder of #MelaninMonday.
I’m originally from Paris, France, raised in New York and spent short periods in Congo. I’m currently residing in New York but I’ve recently found a new love for Montreal and I’ve been spending recent months vibing with the locals and using Canada as a platform.
DM: Your new single and video “The Haus” has over 20,000 views in a day on your Facebook page. What are the concepts behind the song, lyrically and musically, and visually?
YP: Props to Facebook for that. I’ve found that uploading my videos through Facebook has a much more direct reach to the fans than YouTube. The concept of this video, in short, is about cultivating the beauty of our African culture and translating that through a modern perspective.
Growing up I was ashamed because of how Africa was represented through the media, but it was also a big part of my lifestyle. This was also a challenge as a kid trying to fit in with contemporary culture and hold to my traditions with the same magnitude, but my parents made sure we knew where we were from. There was so much to learn historically about what immense roles Africa played in everything we know as we journey through life today.
DM: Why do you think “The Haus” is speaking to so many people?
YP: There’s a huge community of people who are socially conscious of what’s going on in the world, who want to have it given to them in a way where they feel they’re a part of the conversation. This video was targetted specifically to the Afropunk community. Afropunk is primarily a music festival, but also a community of dope Africans in America who know what it is to be relevant and cool but don’t necessarily engage in highlighting the frivolous parts of hip hop.
As far as the music, I make a lot of my beats, and for “The Haus” I went for a little more of a South African house feel, with electronic synths primarily in the chorus to bring it back to my electro element. For lyrics, I mean I started the song with”Africans make me so proud,” so right off the bat I want it to be clear that I know who I am and love myself for it. “The Haus” means our realm, our community, our home — a place where you can come into our world and take a piece of how much we love our culture. When you’re here, you move!
DM: How do you develop your collaborative relationships, whether with music producers, video producers or what-have-you?
YP: People reach out online a lot about collabs and if I think the vibe is dope I’ll give the guy a call and talk about how I can take parts of what they did and put my vibe on it. I like my sound to be electronic with an African drumbeat, usually. A lot of producers I’ve worked with don’t really understand the Afro groove so I like to break down the ideas they have and bring them closer to home.
As far as video, the first video collab I’ve ever done was for “KAKÉ.” I did with a brilliant friend of mine, Zach Gross. Prior to that I’ve done every part of my videos from directing to producing to starring in them, and just asking my brothers to hold the camera.
Now that my creativity and relationships have developed, I’ve told myself it’s much bigger to create with like minds that see another perspective. Jeremy Rubier, who directed “The Haus,” did a great job understanding that. The creative direction came from myself and Mateo Mounier.
For me this video was more of a stamp to show fans and the industry how far I’m willing to go to create visuals at the same level as the big boys. We did this with my own budget, so you can imagine what we can do with some real funding.
DM: Body painting is obviously an important part of your aesthetic. Please explain the symbolism behind that.
YP: Growing up in the African drum and dance company, from as far back as I can remember — at rehearsals, shows or any type of performance — my father would apply make-up on himself and the entire dance troupe.
As a kid I didn’t know why really, until my early teens. My mother explained the symbolic meaning. “We wear red for the blood of our people, yellow for the sun that feeds us and provides light, green for the earth we cultivate and white for the spirit of those we lose and hold close to us.”
Aside from being a symbol of its beauty, we wear the white paint in particular since my father died a sudden death in late 2012. I spent my whole life with my parents, so you could imagine this changed my life drastically, and ever since, I’ve been wearing white in homage and memory of him. Every time I apply it, I do my prayers and showcase to the world that I’m walking in his footsteps.
For “The Haus,” I knew I wanted the video to have many performers and we wore only the white so it was clear everyone was paying homage to the glory of what Papa Badila left us and our family.
DM: What can listeners and new fans expect next from Young Paris?
YP: I plan to release my next EP this spring with three to five other, unheard tracks, and a summer “AfroPunk” tour probably from May to August. I share all the updates on my Facebook, so stay tuned there. ■