You won’t be able to travel far in the Afro-creative universe without hearing a buzz about an up-and-coming young male artist rocking traditional Maquillage tribal marks.

Artist, musician and dancer, Young Paris is a classic case of a triple threat with vision, power, charm and talent to boot. His mix of Afro-Parisian-English lyrics, soft-spoken flow and solid beats is the perfect vessel to sail into a world that is all its own.

Young Paris’s extensive body of work includes notable performances at the 2015 Brooklyn AfroPunk Fest, POP Montreal Official SXSW Showcase 2015, and ongoing collaborations with the Brooklyn Museum. He’s started a movement #MelaninMonday which showcases the diverse beauty of people of colour all around the world.

He’s a rising star … he’s an influencer, an ambassador, a genius and most importantly he’s a breath of fresh air.

My celebration for Black History Month got off to a special start when on January 30, I had the honour of interviewing him at the Brooklyn Museum a week before his show Melanin: Unapologetic.

So Young Paris, what does your name mean?

My real name is Milandou. It means founder and protector of the twins.

In Congo, twins are common and when they’re are a set of twins, the child following is given a special name whether male or female connected to the birth of the twins before him or her. (His older sisters are twins in fact).

We are all Africans, just looking at DNA.

I got the name Young Paris in college because people couldn’t pronounce my real name. Because they knew I was born in Paris, they started calling me Paris.

Where are you from?

Born in Paris and partially raised in Congo, I went to school – and spent most of my life – in New York.

How would you describe life in Congo?

Congo is liberal and developing. The culture is very traditional and they haven’t been impounded by religion and western influence.

© Aurelien Gillier

In many ways, we are still very pure. We still have villages; we still have a very old school life. Whereas a lot of Nigeria has been contemporised, and their culture has been translated from and influenced by American culture. But as the economy expands, Congo is changing.

What are the priorities for Congolese people?

Congolese are liberal; people are organised but economics is not a main priority. Honestly, we grew up with music. In many ways we grew up painting drawing and dancing. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Congo, we would go in spurts.

I try to encourage people to create their own tribes.

Selling shit in the markets, performing, it’s very free in many ways. I live a very free life and I move at my own pace. I’m not pressured by the concept to impress and trying to develop and contemporise.

© Aurelien Gillier

What does it mean to be African?

Being African means being beautiful. Beautiful is to eliminate all European questions and centralise back to the African atmosphere that we want in our minds and make it feel organic.

I try to encourage people to create their own tribes.

We are all Africans, just looking at DNA. The region and agriculture over time shape your appearance and creates distinctive features, diet and physical build.

What is your gripe with black Americans and how were you treated as African?

My philosophy is that it all comes down to culture. Culturally in many ways we are American and African. Genealogically we are African. That’s something you can’t run away from. The sun is going to respond to you as an African. The cold is going to respond to you as someone who is not from this climate naturally.

If you go back to your region your body will naturally adapt. If you take a lion out of a zoo, he’s still a lion and when he goes back he’s going to naturally adapt.

Black American culture is still deeply influenced by African culture.

And when you think of the culture aspect of it, naturally the things that we would adapt to like nutrition or the way the music hits you, the way the culture instantly influences; it brings you back to that place. In many ways we are just distracted by this contemporary American culture.

We have to challenge and tell ourselves ‘Well, if I’m investing in that culture so much and I know so little of this one, am I still this?’ You are not removing yourself from Africa because you are still dancing, still vibrating, and still attracted to spirituality.

You are still attracted to energies, colours, and certain patterns that are not American. For these reasons, black American culture is still deeply influenced by African culture.

How do you see yourself as an artist?

I want to be a role model for love.

I consider myself an educator and a vessel to share information. My audience is everyone. I want to tell black people to teach themselves and teach self love. I want other races to learn as well.

I want to teach people to love themselves…I want to share that energy.

Who are your inspirations & influences?

My family. My parents were artists and performers. My father founded the National Ballet of Congo and I wear my Maquillage make-up to honour him after his death.

I grew up with music, painting, drawing and dancing. I have the free flow of being an artist.

What are some family values that you live by?

Everything has its time.

You can only be who you are.

And one is but one day.

Life is chess, and most people are playing checkers.

Prior to our meeting, I found myself becoming obsessed your original piece Destined. I was impressed with the infectious deep beats, melodic musical flow and visuals of the video. You could say, I was sparked. Can you talk about the inspiration behind Destined?

I wanted to gracefully show black love. So I wrote it, directed it, edited, and paid for it with my own money. The concept is like a colouring book, a young ghetto boy is in love with a princess, secret interaction, separated very young, stern depressed life, he always wanted her, he grows into a warrior, his life mission is to find his woman. Happily ever after.

This young boy was separated from the young woman that he loved and they found each other.

Who is your audience?

My audience is everyone. I want to teach black folks self-love but I want other people to tune in also.

How would you describe your approach to your work and career?

When I make a decision, this is what I am sticking to. I am very grounded, decisive and open-minded and I’m always wanting to take in information. I think in terms of longevity and investing for the future.

Melanin is for people of colour to showcase their beauty.

I’ve been planning my career for a while and a mission takes collaboration and letting life take control. You’re a vessel to share information.

What can you tell me about the VERY BLACK MELANIN exhibition?

MELANIN is meant to be a fire-starter. I want it to continue to blaze and burn the house down, like it’s in the air and you can’t destroy it.

What do you hope the audience will receive from it?

Melanin is for people of colour to showcase their beauty.

When is your next album dropping?

In spring, it’s called African Vogue.

Young Paris is on a mission. It’s clear in his vision as a pioneer, grounded sensibility, pride and work as an artist that he has all the necessary tools to drive his message home and to the masses. His creative direction, choreography, sound, and voice create an invaluable experience of being transported into his world and experiencing his light.

Young Paris is golden.

Check out more here

Follow Young Paris on Twitter @Young_Paris