Paris Michael — known by his stage name Paris — was thrown into theater at a young age. The artist, who hails from Chicago’s South Side, felt obligated to pursue it and spent his first year in NYU’s Tisch School of Performing Arts. But Michael, despite his history, quickly had the revelation that what he really loved was music. Absorbed in passion, his next move was applying to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. He was rejected.
“When I applied, my music wasn’t where it should’ve been,” Paris said. “I was kind of just mirroring my favorite artists and putting them in a big melting pot and then pushing it as if I was doing something original, which would be fine if I had less integrity than I do. So shout out [to] Clive for rejecting me because it really showed me that I should [have found] a sound.”
Unfazed by his rejection from Clive, Paris, a junior a Tisch, plans to show the Grammys the need for a category for his kind of music while winning both Best Rock Album and Best Rap Album at the same time. Heavily influenced by the likes of Playboi Carti, Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert, his energetic sound excites listeners.
With a fully realized vision in mind, the versatile singer and rapper now plans to transfer to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study to study the Business of Iconism. The concentration integrates fashion, music and film business with design and recording to define what constitutes an icon in art.
“That’s the energy that I want to give with all my music. Put my f-king music in the MoMA,” Paris said. “My music will be high art. I want them to teach my music in school 20 years from now. Why strive to be anything less than that?”
Today, Paris considers hip-hop to be in its Golden Age, making his favorite contemporaries an inspiration for the art he makes. To enter the correct headspace that conjures up the raw and endearing vulnerability Michael seeks to convey in his music, he listens to alternative rock. His creative process involves meeting with his producer, drafting a schedule and then not sticking to it at all.
You can find him writing while watching anime or Joaquin Phoenix’s 2013 film “Her” on mute. The beat is always birthed from the question: what energy do you want? Paris’ artistic focus has its sights on an emotionality that connects with all people. Something that can effortlessly trigger a beautiful reaction from the consumer — whether it be sobbing or raging.
“When I tell people that music saved my life, I don’t mean it figuratively or metaphorically or hyperbolically,” Paris said. “I mean it quite literally … I think music is the purest art form that we have in this world. My mom once told me when I was a kid that music is like the holy spirit because it literally is in everybody.”
Growing up struggling with depression made it difficult for Paris to make friends, so he found protection, love and acceptance through music. Artists Kid Cudi, Marvin Gaye, Prince and Michael Jackson are some of the many who brought him safety and solace when he needed it.
“That’s what art was to me,” he said. “It’s just beautiful. It reminds me why I’m here every day. I think my biggest fear in life is not making a masterpiece because I feel like that’s my sole purpose here: to give art back to those who need something.”
Forming an analogy of music to the night, Paris continues to be flabbergasted by the way music can stand alone or with any other element of art.
“I’ve never felt anything more emotionally healing and deprecating than music,” said Paris. “I feel like music is the only art form that combines all other art forms in perfect harmony. Music is the only thing where you can remove certain aspects, and it’ll still be music: it’s like night time. Nothing will ever make night not night. Like a tornado could f-cking swoop through Washington Square Park, and you’d be like, ‘damn. It’s still 8 p.m.’”
Creative individuality is what Paris considers to be the most essential feature of his music. The foundation to his world of reckless candor and full pressure passion is solid. He wants to stay true to his art by letting go of control and allowing chaos to take the throne.
“That’s the point of music: it transcends everything,” Paris said. “Why not transcend it yourself?”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 5 print edition. Email Avani Jurakhan at [email protected]