Young Paris is a Congolese artist living in New York — think of the potential for fertile tension in that brief description alone. Add in the fact that he’s from a family that has artistic and cultural connections in both the Congo and America and you can see why Young Paris is interested in blurring the lines between contemporary and traditional cultures.
Young Paris’ father co-created the first Congolese ballets, these ballets were vibrant expressions of the Congolese culture, which included: dancing, drumming, costume and drama. YP related to me over the phone that a key element of these ballets was their efficacy as a forum for exposing governmental hypocrisy.
Although the ballets were largely celebratory and festive, there were elements of social critique embedded in the performance. This is the kind of cultural milieu that Young Paris is coming out of.
Young Paris’ music is beat driven, but beat driven in the way that Rhythm of the Saints is beat driven, by which I mean to say, it is not simply dumb repetition, there is substance. In YP’s new video for his track The Haus there are all kinds of aesthetic hybridizations: harem parts and traditional Congolese face painting, African drumming and synth sounds, and the music video is populated with real African dancers and dancing.
The pop idiom itself is being used as transmitter of traditional culture. This idea is strikingly similar to his father’s idea of couching social critique in the ballets he created.
Now, it’s not as if Young Paris is preaching overtly about social injustice, it’s subtler than that— I feel like Young Paris’s ability to walk that fine line between innovation and appropriation is in itself a huge statement that reverberates beyond the context of pop music. It engenders a respect and a tolerance in me that very few pop artists do.
This was a really dope interview if you haven’t figured that out yet! Young Paris is not your average cat, he’s got bigger visions. Near the end of our conversation he mentioned that his father had passed, then he said something very resonant to me, and I’ll leave you with this line:
“My whole mission is his vision until I’m gone.”
* photo Victoria Wilde Langley