Meet Young Paris, Jay-Z Protégé and the New Face of NYFW Men’s


Young Thug. Young M.A. Young Jeezy. Yung Lean. There are dozens of “Young”artists in the hip hop game, but Young Paris (née Milandou Badila) stands apart from them all. He’s certainly the only one rocking traditional African face paint with high fashion looks. The Parisian-born, New York-bred artist has a Congolese soul, and is bringing Afrobeats―an infectious mash-up of traditional African music, EDM, and rap―to the mainstream. Last Spring, Paris dropped his first album African Vogue, which quickly earned the attention of Jay-Z and co., who signed him to Roc Nation in August. Flash forward to this summer, and Paris has a new album, Afrobeats; plus a burgeoning social media brand Melanin, a contract with Next models, and a new role as C.F.D.A. ambassador to New York Fashion Week Men’s. We caught up with the rising star about his unique sound, style, and which designers he’s looking forward to seeing this week.

How do you define the Afrobeats movement?

“It’s really about capturing the new African sound happening now. There’s already a huge Afrobeats presence on the continent and at clubs in the U.K., so America is the last frontier. I’m helping to start the conversation here and translate the sound by putting an American spin on traditional African music. You’ll hear some pop influences, a lot of rap influences―but it’s also about being genuine to the original. Luckily, because of my background, I’m aware of the different dialects and cadences involved in making a true Afrobeats track, and can still bring that New York element to it.

In general, it’s important I’m making music people can really vibe to. Africa has such a huge dance culture, and my songs are very feel-good with a contagious, energetic beat. Now you see kids taking my songs and making their own amazing dance cover videos. Dancers really are the new D.J.s and influencers now in the sense of making something go viral. Just think about the mannequin challenge earlier this year.”

How did your background impact your style?

“I was born in Paris and moved to New York when I was seven. I grew up in this super artistic environment. My mother was a playwright and my father was a founder of the National Ballet in the Congo. So I was constantly hanging around dance studios and theaters, playing with masks, costumes, and sewing kits. That creative base has always been there, and then you add in my cultural melange of experiences. Africa to me is the origin, the untouched and raw culture. And then you have France, which has this prestige and level of taste. And then America is more radical and ‘fuck off.’

Fashion-wise, I come from a tradition of Congolese men who notoriously love to dress up. The Sapeur movement goes back over a century, with poor men spending all their money to go to Paris and buy 00 suits. So personal style is in my blood naturally.”

Tell us about your signature face paint.

“My maquillage was inspired by my father, who brought together dancers from all these villages in the Congo, and they would represent their different regions with different painting styles. When you were very young, your parents would give you this marking as part of the tradition. We would wear the paint for special occasions—ceremonies, celebrations, weddings. But after my father passed, I started painting my face a lot more frequently, and it got to the point where it became part of my identity. My maquillage sets me apart but is also a way to show that I’m proud of my culture. And no matter how crazy life becomes or what happens with my career, I’ll still have this tradition. It’s a reminder of where I come from.”

What’s the story behind your popular Instagram account @MelaninMonday?

“I wanted to use my platform to give people of color a place to highlight their beauty. It started with me just posting pictures of these gorgeous models with a rainbow of black skin tones, and that led to the larger concept of Melanin and how the sun reacts with our skin. I see it as my role to help people engage with issues we deal with as Black Americans…subjects like self-awareness and self-love. Diversity has come to the front of the conversation lately—especially in fashion—and as our world gets more multicultural, it’s important for people to have channels where they can say, I love who I am for what I am.

Major news! You’ve just been announced as a CFDA Brand Ambassador for New York Fashion Week: Men’s.

“Being chosen as an ambassador by the C.F.D.A. honestly still surprises me. I’m extremely honored and believe this truly says a lot about where the fashion world is going. Obviously I’m all about diversity. Outside my own success, I’m enjoying seeing more designers and models of color shaping the future of fashion. At this point it’s important I use this opportunity to show the industry, my fans, and friends why I was chosen and how my style can help others become more bold and confident about whatever it is they choose to wear.”

Any shows you’re particularly looking forward to attending?

“I’m excited to see the clothes, meet designers, and keep creating relationships with brands. Bring it all on! But the shows at the top of my list are: Todd Snyder, DYNE, Carlos Campos, EFM, Represent, Matiere, Rochambeau—and most definitely Raf Simons.”


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