Artist Feature: Paris Aden
Click here to listen to the Carhartt WIP Radio Show featuring Paris Aden
This month’s Carhartt WIP Radio show is brought to you by Paris Aden, the Texas-based producer reshaping the sound of her home state with an experimental approach that has seen her work with the likes of Bbymutha and Lil Pump. Paris released her first full-length project, titled 19 & Drifting, in 2020 and is set to follow it up with another release this year.
For Carhartt WIP Radio Paris Aden conducted a show, that features unreleased music, tunes she made for artists like her Houston based pal The Real Drippy, as well as little interview snippets in which she talks about her life, aims, and music. To accompany her show, we published a feature by Myles Sinclair that is taken from the latest issue of WIP magazine, as he explores her Dirty South roots and what informs her singular sound.
Paris Aden got her first tattoos when she was 19 years old. They are impossible to miss: A small half crescent moon resting below her right cheek, and a tiny bow tie on her left temple, reminiscent of Hello Kitty, one of her childhood obsessions.
When we spoke in June, Paris was on nine tattoos, and as you’re reading this, she is probably on her tenth – or thirtieth. Her goal was to have 21 by her 21st birthday this past August. Paris says that each tattoo is a trophy. “Every single one of them means something,” she says.
On her left index finger is the Eye of Horus inspired by her infatuation with mythical gods. On her right index and pinky are two longhorns to represent her home state of Texas. In the center of her neck is another homage to home: A drawing of the state with a cartoonish B.B. Simon belt wrapped around it. As for the meaning behind the face tats? “A bow for a hoe, a moon for the goons,” she jokes.
Those first two were spontaneous decisions. Aden was on her first ever trip to London when a close friend convinced her to visit this “hard ass tattoo artist” named Gringo. Paris sat in the chair, asked for two tats on her face and Gringo immediately asked what she did for a living. “I’m an artist,” she said, understated.
More accurately, Paris Aden is an eccentric. She wears her hair natural and freeform, has neck tattoos the size of Texas, and speaks with a fervent energy that suggests her mind is moving from one idea to the next at warp speed. She is a diversely talented music producer, who spends her free time doing film photography, DJing for NTS Radio, and throwing parties in Houston. She’s also growing tobacco in her backyard along with a couple lemon and apple trees. In a few months she wants to plant more trees at random spots in Houston: “I just be plotting random ass shit bro.”
When Paris and I speak, she comes across as genuine and candid, armed with a breezy charisma and disarming smile. Yet, I meet sweet and likeable people all the time. What strikes me is that Paris is, like few people I have ever met, incredibly driven. Part of that drive is owed to her upbringing in Port Arthur, Texas, the birthplace of Pimp C and Bun B, of the seminal southern rap duo UGK. She remembers regularly having the two legends around her house while growing up – which is the kind of story you wouldn’t tend to believe, if Paris didn’t say every word with so much conviction.
I have never been to Port Arthur, Texas, but Paris describes it as a desolate city, an area that was once a creative hub, but is now the type of place you may only drive through to get to a nearby major metropolis like Houston. It is a city whose economy is almost entirely built on the local oil refinery, Motiva, which is the largest in North America and where young people typically end up working, if they even get the chance to grow up at all.
According to Paris, her childhood in Port Arthur was “horrible… it fucking sucked.” She became depressed at a young age, which she says is like a contagious disease in the city. But Port Arthur also seems like the kind of place that uniquely molds you — the sort of barren canvas that, if you’re a budding creative, can force you to do nothing else but seek a way out. “Five years old. That’s when my eyes was open,” Paris says. “My parents didn’t take care of me… It’s weird that I came out ok. I had negativity all around. But I didn’t let that affect me. I went through it and told myself that at 18 I’mma make a way.”
For Paris, that way has always been music. She grew up around it, listening and absorbing everything she heard in the house. “When I was seven years old I knew nothing that wasn’t trap and down southern music and some blues. The trap came from my parents and the blues from my grandparents.”
At eight years old, she went left: Paris got the game Rock Band for Christmas, discovered heavy metal, and became obsessed with Black Sabbath and whatever else sounded remotely like it. “I became the weird kid out of nowhere … Rap gives you energy, it gives you soul. But heavy metal, that shit makes you want to just let it all go,” she says, smiling.
It was all of that – the trap, the soul, the metal, the memories with Pimp and Bun – which shaped Paris Aden’s sound. At 16 years old she started making beats and was dropping songs with Atlanta rapper Bali Baby not too long after. Now, she’s out of Port Arthur and living her own space in Houston, with a room dedicated entirely to her home recording studio. It’s decked out with high quality monitors, drum pads, mics, and headphones, most of which she secured through the NTS WIP artist development program. Paris tells me she spends “36 hours a day” in there. “I realized nobody got a work ethic like me. I’m making beats all day, not eating type shit. Nobody be doing that. N****s my age be just living they life… My life is a marathon and I’m still sprinting.”
Paris’ production can best be described as a sort of industrialized trap – an aggressive, experimental chaos that forces your attention and hijacks genre conventions. Her debut mixtape, 19 & Drifting, exemplifies this. Each instrumental pulls the manic energy of heavy metal over throbbing trap 808s and dips that draw from the woozy and narcotized roots of Houston hip hop. Her latest effort, meanwhile, is a collaborative album that she says will “shape the new sound of Houston.” Paris describes her music best: “It’s got the seasoning and the backbones of Texas, but the skin is so different.”
On the front cover of "19" is an ode to her city: An animation of Paris leaning on the trunk of a cherry red Houston slab, parked in front of a mural depicting Pimp and Bun. “I wanted it to have a Southern ass cover art, so people look at it like, ‘Oh, some UGK, real southern type shit is going to play.’ Then you hear it and be like, n**** this is EDM, pop, electronic, experimental … But this is what’s really going on in the south.”
Despite it consisting of beats she made over four years ago, most of the tape sounds like it landed from some distorted future. “I made that at 16, 18 and now people [are] saying, ‘Oh my god, this is the new sound.’ N****, this shit old. I been making this shit for years! So the shit I’m making right now, nobody gonna take it, they’re not going to understand.”
If anyone understands Paris, it is Chattanooga-born artist and self-proclaimed antichrist of female rap, Bbymutha. The two first linked up in November 2018. Mutha dropped her cult classic Muthaz Day 3, featuring the Paris-produced single Sailor Goon, a track where bbymutha stretches her elastic delivery over each verse to ensure you know she is superior to just about everybody. The beat provided by Paris is hypnotic, pitting militaristic 808s against synth lines that would make more sense in a 16-bit-era video game.
“I was 16 or 17 when she dropped that,” says Paris. “I literally remember months later I opened up my DistroKid and had thousands of dollars in there. I was like, I made five bands off bbymutha. This whole time I been broke and nobody told me?”
Today, bbymutha is not just a frequent collaborator with Paris, but a close friend and mentor. Paris credits mutha with helping her learn how to navigate the industry early on and inspiring her work ethic. “Mutha is the reason I am who I am today, that’s like my second mama. She even sent me money before my mama did on my birthday last year,” she says, laughing. But Paris is also just a fan. “I knew mutha was the one bro. I knew she was gonna be the one. I was scrolling through Twitter one day, found her shit and said, ‘I gotta tap in.’ It was just different. That’s what inspires me.” This past July, mutha was the headliner at Paris’ show “Paris Aden Presents: First To The Future,” alongside two other Houston artists leading the new wave: Teezo Touchdown and Rizzoo Rizzoo.
The more I talk to Paris, I realize she speaks in dualities, displaying the kind of complex stream of thought that might sound contradictory if you don’t listen carefully. She is adamant that she isn’t making music for the money, and yet when I ask what keeps her going, she replies plainly: “This paper.” She wants to make enough to get out of her hood but also never truly leave it. “I want to buy Port Arthur one day. I want to make it look nice for the people there. I’m not raising prices… We got strong cities, strong communities, it’s just the money and ideas is not there.”
If it wasn’t said with so much conviction you would think the idea was improbable. But she even has a plan to get there. Paris wants to spend the next year stacking enough money to where she can donate as much as possible to the local school. And she wants to make an impact in music to the point where she can wear the city on her back.
“When you think about Port Arthur I want you to think about Paris Aden. I don’t want you to think of Pimp no more, because I’m now. I’m next,” she says. It might sound bombastic, but also somehow feels like a natural step. “By next year, I want to get a key to the city.”
Words: Myles Sinclair