Young Paris, the stage moniker for the French-born Congolese rapper/musician/model Milandou Badila, is on fire. Last year, he was signed to Jay’s Z’s Roc Nation label, which boasts talent such as Rihanna, Big Sean and Lil Wayne. Paris also dropped two (yes, two) albums, African Vogue in 2016 and Afrobeats in 2017, and is about to release a third EP, Let me Love You. Somehow he also found time to be a CFDA Brand Ambassador for Men’s New York Fashion Week this year.
To say the least, Paris is hard at work. “I think sometimes people dilute the intensity of sustaining a career in the record or fashion business,” he said recently on a beautiful summer afternoon. “What people don’t say too often is when you do start to make it, [is] how to actually balance your life.”
I sat down with Paris after an intense and productive five hour photo shoot for the cover of Cool America Magazine. As we discussed his art, family life, how he finds balance in a blossoming career, I had the sense that he is a man on a mission.
Leif: Talk to me about what’s happening with Young Paris right now.
Paris: I just finished my upcoming EP, it’s called Let Me Love You, it’ll be out the first week in September. I worked on this project for 2 months. I’m really focused and excited to give you guys this new music. We [also] just wrapped up Men’s Fashion Week, I was one of CFDA Brand Ambassador.
Leif: How’s this new EP different from African Vogue or Afrobeats?
Paris: Let Me Love You is more like of emotional side of Young Paris. I just went through some very transitional times in love [and I] took pieces of my experiences and put that into music. Some of it is dance, some of it is celebratory. There’s other elements where you can see this guy’s going through something. Love is crazy.
Leif: What do hope to accomplish with your music?
Paris: Just to make people feel good, man. I think African music is really just feel-good music. Overall, I just want people to come, listen, leave the place that they’re in, go somewhere else.
Leif: You come from an incredibly artistic family. Your father cofounded the National Ballet of Congo and your nine siblings are all performers and artists. What was it like growing up?
Paris: Yeah. [laughs] It was crazy, man. We had a very interesting childhood. My parents both being super into the arts and then growing us up into the arts. We had to go through the struggles and also the joys of having each other. It was beautiful, it really made me who I am.
Leif: Was it expected that you would go into the arts?
Paris: I started choreographing at 14 [and] teaching dance. I actually wanted to be a designer. Once I started choreographing, which led me to start rapping, and I started just making music. I’ve always had a life in the arts, from the beginning.
Leif: I understand your face paint is an homage to your father who past away several years ago?
Paris: This is a pattern that my father gave me when I was a child [and] when he passed I just kept wearing it. I would use it in my prayers [and] it turned into my way of how I wanted to express myself. [It] is paying homage to my father and his existence because he’s always with us.
Leif: What was your relationship like with your father?
Paris: Amazing, man, that’s my king. Imagine, this has been the most important person to me in my life. As a family, we went through a lot of different things as most families do, but my father had such a strength about him, a nobleness of his character. I always looked up to him.
Leif: Last year you were signed to Roc Nation. For people outside the music industry, tell me what that means?
Paris: Roc Nation is Jay-Z’s record label. It’s just a beautiful transition in my life. I was out here just preaching the African message, Afrobeats, the lifestyle, the culture. Those A&R there, they saw the movement [and] brought me in. To be received by such an amazing family and platform [has] put pressure in my life that it’s time to really start taking [my career] to the next level. It’s exciting!
Leif: What advice do you have for young people who maybe don’t know how to break into the music business?
Paris: I say this all the time, you just keep putting stuff out there. You never know who’s watching. I’ve seen videos that have gone viral where it might have 10 views on Facebook, but one of those views happened to be a celebrity that’s the cousin of [someone]. He shares it, and then it goes global.
Leif: Who’s on your playlist right now?
Paris: Oh, a lot of Wiz kid. I’m a big fan of his. Devido, Techno, a lot of afrobeats. Outside of the new African music, it’s Erykah Badu, Adele, Mos Def, Kanye West, Pharrell.
Leif: How can people stay in touch with you?
Paris: @YoungParis on all my socials. You’ll just be able to find me on there.