Young Paris, real name Milandou Badila, is a Parisian born, New York-bred Congolese rapper curating his own lane when it comes to art, fashion and music.
As a Utica college, fine arts graduate, Paris envisioned pursuing a career in fashion design, but rapping struck a deeper chord during his casual cypher sessions on his college campus. What was once just a thing to do in his spare time morphed into a full-on career pursuit. Now, the eccentric artist has two EP’s under his belt, African Vogue (2016) and AfroBeats (2017) and a record deal with Roc Nation Management.
EBONY.com caught up with the creative to discuss his artistic mission, fashion goals and the essence of Afro beats.
EBONY.com: Why did you decide to go into rapping and what inspired this decision?
Young Paris: It was about mixing my kind of traditional ambiance into rap so I would talk about Africa and love. I would give little notes about my traditional background and it made me a little different in the cyphers.
EBONY.com: How does your stage persona differ from your actual personality?
Young Paris: Young Paris is the expression of my alter ego. It’s kind of like the godly figure that I can create to express myself to an audience. When I’m performing, I find the world to be a stage. If I’m going to the red carpet, at a party or on stage, I turn into Young Paris. I think my organic personality is very similar. I’m very intuitive and connected to my family. I’m kind of simple at heart. Essentially my real goal is just to help people.
EBONY.com: Did you want to do something else besides rapping initially?
Young Paris: Before I was rapping I was actually dancing. My parents used to do multicultural arts and technology programs in Connecticut. Every summer we would go and teach kids about our traditional African culture, and also mix African dance with hip-hop. I was doing that since I was 16. Essentially, I thought I was going to be a dancer until I started to rap.
Outside of that, I went to school for fine arts. I was an arts major. I really wanted to be a fashion designer but once hip-hop and rap started becoming my interest, I started mixing all of those into myself as a performer. When you see the whole Young Paris performance, [it] has elements of fashion, dance, and art. It all kinda ended up turning into a story.
EBONY.com: Since your 2016 mixtape African Vogue, what impact do you think its had on society and what do you hope to get across with your latest project, AfroBeats?
Young Paris: African Vogue touches on a few different paradoxes. You have Vogue, which is the biggest editorial fashion platform in the world, and vogue is fashion. I have a fashion element to my style. I come from Congo, where fashion is a very strong influence in our culture. Then you have the vogue dance style. Essentially, the message through “Voguing” is strutting your stuff. Expressing yourself. Because we are living in these times, and it’s important to put a stamp on what you’re offering to the table, I want to use the AfroBeats project to really introduce that as a genre to the world.
EBONY.com: How did your relationship with Roc Nation form?
Young Paris: My relationship with Roc Nation started when I met one of the A&R (Artist and Repertoire) representatives through a mutual friend. I didn’t know he was from Roc Nation. Very soon after, [the A&R rep] asked me to come to the office. I didn’t even know what office it was, and it ended up being Roc Nation. Long story short, in a couple weeks he was like, “Listen, man we want to sign you to be a part of the team.” I went to the office a few times and met the whole crew and it was very cool. It actually happened very fast because within two weeks of going to Roc Nation I had to go on a trip to the islands with my girlfriend. I got back the end of July, and August is when we kicked off our collaborations together.
EBONY.com: Now that you’re signed to Roc Nation, how has that expanded your audience and platform, on a mainstream level?
Young Paris: When you sign to any type of commercial media, it’s really about impacting a commercial audience. Essentially, when you’re talking about the subject that I’m talking about, a little more socially conscious , it usually attracts a smaller or more intelligent audience. You know, no disrespect. I find that with Roc Nation it’s really about broadening the conversation to make it a little more understandable to a larger audience, but still keeping the elements that make my message clear. My real drive is moving my story and how I grew up, my family, and my lineage.
My message [centers on] this whole idea of self-love and self-awareness. Essentially, with Roc Nation, it’s a bigger platform to share the story. Musically, I feel like my message has to make more sense to more people. It’s really just how I’m translating the conversation. My message is really about knowing that you’re worth something because of who you are.
EBONY.com: And that seems to also align with your Melanin Project. Can you speak a bit on that?
Young Paris: You see Melanin is hash-tagged everywhere. It’s not something that I invented, but when I was really pushing this to become a subject into the mainstream and seeing where it’s been going, that kind of shows the affects of how people really want to love themselves. This is something that we’re translating into our culture. I actually started getting my success online because I would post beautiful models of color. I would see all these beautiful Black models in editorials, but they were just in the editorials. I never really saw them online, so I would post all of these Black models on my Facebook page and started getting a lot of popularity. I would always uplift the Black woman and talk about the editorials that they were doing.
EBONY.com: What is your ultimate goal in life?
Young Paris: To impact people of color and inspire self-awareness and self-love.
EBONY.com: Do you have any upcoming projects?
Young Paris: I’m launching a media company next year, but the website is now live. It’s called “Melanated.com” and that’ll be the platform for all the conversations and the various things that will be going on, the interviews, social media, etc. as a platform for people of color.
Outside of “Young Paris”, I see myself as a spearhead for this word that we’re translating into a lifestyle where people can embrace themselves as people of color. That’s really my mission. Other than that, new music and new content. I’ll be recording a lot. I am going on tour in Europe this month.
AFROBEATS is currently available on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and Soundcloud.