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Premiere: Paris Williams - "Cocoa" EP

Paris Williams. Photo by Jake Kelly.

Paris Williams is a recent Kansas City transplant that's already making his adopted hometown proud. After growing up in Muskegon, Michigan, the young rapper-producer moved to Missouri to link up with his friends in Drop Dead XX. His first project as a Kansas Citian, Drop Dead Gorgeous, came out last year and today we're excited to premiere his follow-up, an EP called Cocoa.


The EP is the first in a new trilogy called Crybaby and sees Williams employing a technicolor palette not unlike those of The Neptunes and Odd Future as he raps about the joys and frustrations of growing up and falling in love. The four-song release includes features from TyFaizon (of Drop Dead XX and Blackstarkids), Medici (also of DDXX), and Internet Brad (a.k.a Brad Girard of French Exit Records, who is releasing the EP). You can read a recent interview I did with Williams and listen to all the songs below. (Interview edited for brevity and clarity.)


I wanted to start off by asking where the names of the EP trilogy, Crybaby, and the first EP, Cocoa, came from.
So, I always thought Crybaby was a really cool title. I like that really old movie with Johnny Depp from the '80s called Cry-Baby, too. And that's just something I've been called since I was a kid, being really emotional and stuff like that. And I guess for the theme of this project, what I wanted to do was embrace that title and turn it into something positive, because it's always thought of as such negative thing, to show emotion and be vulnerable and stuff like that. So it was just taking something that was used as an insult to me growing up and turning it into something positive. Because I feel like Drop Dead Gorgeous was me embracing all my flaws, going against the grain in a way and calling myself gorgeous 'cause I never felt like people did when I was a kid.

Cocoa, that's just something that reminds me of childhood. Just hot chocolate, or like cocoa butter, just the smell of it. That title brought back like a lot of childhood memories for me. So I figured that'd be a good way to start off. And the EP just talks about a lot of different things. I guess that correlates my high school life. Like "Gym Class Heroes" or "Youth In Revolt." Even "Nola" as being like that feeling of young love or just like being head-over-heels infatuated with someone. "Paradise" is kind of more of a realistic look on how things were and me just embracing some of those dark moments and trying to find the light in it, if that makes sense.

When I was interviewing Blackstarkids recently, they were talking about how they come up with their album names and tracklists before they do any of the writing or recording. It seems like you also find titles and track names important in your work, too.
Oh yeah, for sure. I didn't end up naming the songs before, it just kind of happened, but I feel like I put a lot of meaning into it afterwards, because I feel like things come to you for a reason. Nothing's really random and like if you put enough thought into it, you can connect it through to things of your life and just stuff like that. But yeah, all that stuff is super important. We're all very detail-driven.

So you have the song "Gym Class Heroes" and I think it's cool because something that's kind of been present both in your solo music and the Drop Dead XX stuff and some of the Blackstarkids stuff is this melding of indie music and hip-hop, and I think some of the first contemporary artists to do that would would have been Gym Class Heroes, Fall Out Boy and some of the early Fueled By Ramen stuff. Are any of those bands important to you?
I was definitely listening to Gym Class Heroes. "Cupid's Chokehold" is a super sick song. I loved seeing that music video when I was a kid. And then even the song that they had like a few years later with the guy from Maroon Five.

"Stereo Hearts" with Adam Levine.
Yeah, and I just always loved when people do kind of that mesh of pop and hip-hop and just create a new sound. A lot of people -- I guess it's all down to preference -- don't really like that stuff. But I don't know. It's always been a cool mix of worlds and seeing Travie McCoy just be himself so early on was really cool. He was just a pop-punk kid [from] where I grew up, in the Midwest; just doing what he did was super cool to see.

Yeah, even though nobody's adopting most of those aesthetics as their main inspiration right now, those songs were really cool and kind of innovative for their time, I think.
For sure, definitely. Even if they aren't directly influenced by it, I can see a lot more Black kids getting into like the alternative or pop-punk scene. And that comes from life experience, and just probably seeing stuff like that opens up your eyes to another possibility.

I was wondering how much of this new material was written or recorded during the pandemic.

I dropped Gorgeous in December. And all of these [new] songs were from early, early this year, like really early, right before the pandemic. That's when I started fleshing them out. So these songs are kind of old at this point.

Do you think your writing or production has changed much between Gorgeous and Cocoa?
Yeah, I think so. For sure. I think this time around on the, this EP in particular, I just wanted to focus more on the songwriting, and very to-the-point song structure. So let's get into the verse and hook as soon as possible and not really mess around too much. You know, getting to the meat and potatoes of the song. And that's just been a big focus, just trying to, not necessarily, like dumb down the sound, but to be more concise with it.

You were making music before you moved to Kansas City. I wanted to know how you think growing up in Michigan impacted the music you make.
I think like the mix of culture that I saw for sure. It's a Midwest place, but you still get hints of coastal life just because like there's so much beach life and Lake Michigan and all the Great Lakes. And that's something a lot of people I guess can't really relate to when I moved out here. I'm used to just being able to go to the beach. But yeah, just seeing a bunch of different walks of life as well when it comes to class or, I guess not really with race and stuff like, it wasn't the most diverse, but I guess growing up around upper middle class white kids and then going to areas that I'm more familiar with and mixing the two and taking things from both sides is kind of where I got my style when it comes from like aesthetics or clothing and just how I carry myself overall.

I guess we got to get you down to the Lake of the Ozarks at some point.

Yeah, definitely, I still haven't been.

I mean, it's probably not as as fun a beach as a as what's happening in Michigan.

Yeah, I miss it. I gotta go back soon. Hoping to go back this summer. If you ever get a chance, you should definitely go out there in the summer. It's really cool.


The Cocoa EP is, to some extent, pretty upbeat and colorful. Are the other two EPs going to be as bright as this one? Maybe tease what's to come on those. 

I think the next one, the second one, is going to be a little grittier and more bass heavy. I just want to focus on a little less bright, colorful, bubbly stuff. And then third will be, I guess, more introspective. I don't know, there's just so much that's happened in this past year or two that I would just love to like put my thoughts down about and I'm about maybe two songs deep into both of those right now. I don't know if I'll be using that stuff, but I've just been making a lot of music as of late. So yeah, Cocoa is kind of a bright, joyous sound. The second EP will be a lot grittier. I just want to really hone in on the lyrical aspect of the stuff and then the third one would just be I guess, it's very relatable. More day-to-day life stuff that people can can listen to and ride to.

Stream or download Cocoa below.

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