2 REAL: PARISALEXA AND THE POWER OF AUTHENTICITY

Kalie Sandstrom, (Lux) Pot Shop

A grainy home video starts up, flashing July 2001 across the bottom of the screen. The shot opens on a young Dad, playing with his three-year-old daughter, in her room. Under her breath, she hums something unrecognizable. He asks what the song is, and she explains it’s her song. He responds:

“You have a lot of songs you’ve made up, Paris, don’t you?”

“Yea.” She replies quietly while looking into the camera. A foreshadowing of the incredible talent that would soon shine out of those same eyes.

Fast forward to find that same girl, one spring evening in Seattle, WA. The 21-year-old stepping out of her car, in the fading daylight, is hardly the quiet toddler in a white pinafore from the video. Parisalexa, otherwise known by her first name, Paris, is warm, tall, and beautiful. Styled effortlessly in all black, with a vintage trefoil embossed sport coat, and a vibe that drips of “I was born to do this”.

Those who’ve met Paris agree that she commands spaces with humility and confidence. An energy that makes anyone feel as though they’re both safe among friends, but also in the presence of greatness.

Paris was born in 1998, in New Jersey to Alonda and Byron Williams. The family relocated to Redmond, WA in 2006, with Paris’s younger brother, Tyler, in tow. With her Dad’s background as a DJ and her parents’ love of live shows, music constantly surrounded the Williams family. Still, both parents were stunned when Paris began playing Mariah Carey’s “Thank God I Found You” on the piano. Having had no lessons they quickly realized she taught herself how to play by ear when she was just five years old. A trait that Paris’s family attributes to Byron’s Dad, who toured for years with the Isley Brothers, and also had the gift of ear.

Those who’ve met Paris agree that she commands spaces with humility and confidence. An energy that makes anyone feel as though they’re both safe among friends, but also in the presence of greatness. In this circumstance, it’s no different. Paris adamantly teases that her skills and larger than life personality are due (at least in part) to her Mom playing a specific album on repeat while she was pregnant – coincidentally, the iconic and self-titled debut album, Destiny’s Child.

“I came out the womb like ‘la-la-la-la,’ singing! Literally!” Paris jokes.

She goes on to explain that it wasn’t just her parents’ early recognition of her natural talent that pushed her deeper into music, it was their shared excitement for something they knew she loved doing. Known for being in attendance at every show, you can find Alonda, Byron, and Tyler singing every single word while watching from the crowd as any great fans would. Paris attributes most (if not all) of who she is, as a person and artist, to her family.

2 Real: Parisalexa’s Latest Album Stream

“It’s always been, ‘My kid is great at this, and I want to share it with the world.’ Never once did I feel discouraged about my passion. Because they always made it seem so tangible.”

“My whole life, my parents have been supportive. Uber supportive. They’re just so happy and excited for me. It’s never been just ‘Oh, you’re good at this.’ It’s always been, ‘My kid is great at this, and I want to share it with the world.’ Never once did I feel discouraged about my passion. Because they always made it seem so tangible. I think that’s the biggest part of all of this, that unwavering support.”

She explains that it was a unique kind of support. Never an attempt to control or push her in ways, that she wasn’t already leading them. Just constant work to make sure Paris could keep doing what she loved, as long as she wanted to do it.

“They weren’t stage-parents, telling me what to do or where to move.” She continues, “with my singing they were just completely invested in my love for it. My first live showcases were at the Starbucks in Issaquah — a series that my Mom set up completely by herself. It’s crazy that they just keep getting more awesome. So supportive still, even with how many millions of times they’ve heard the same songs, they never get tired of them.”

Paris released her first project Bloom in January of 2018. The critically acclaimed seven-song EP finds a 19-year-old Paris navigating first loves and exploring her new adult-identity. From her jazzy, scat filled collaboration “Gardens” with fellow Seattle musician and frequent collaborator, MistaDC, to her doo-wop heavy “Cross Pollinate”, a daydream about her future children. Paris shows the wide breadth of her abilities, which in turn provides credence to her exploration of subject matter and style that seem well beyond her years.

In June of the same year, she drops the four-track mixtape Flexa. Presenting the rejuvenated “take-no-shit” woman who emerged from her last relationship, clearly resolute on where she’s going and what her value is. Her hugely popular single “Ballin’” and opening track “LV” manifest a reality that isn’t far off. With affirmations like “Ima buy a mansion for my Mama/ when I finally make it,” the listener is left knowing that Paris is a woman who will get what she wants, on her terms. While the songs “Like Me Better” and “Hard Way” show the depth of her resiliency and ability to put that which no longer serves her, into the rearview.

Photo Credit: Carson Shipley, (Lux) Pot Shop

“…The album is pretty honest. Not a lot of things are perfect. So, I talk about that. There’s power in that. I’m unsigned. I can do and say things that other artists can’t.”

Her third project, and debut full-length album as Parisalexa, entitled 2 Real is out now streaming on major platforms. The highly anticipated 2 Real is a representation of where Paris is right now. A world-class songwriter and rising superstar, navigating her way from being a young black musician in the Seattle suburbs. To an honest and formidable force, in an industry that isn’t necessarily known for its authenticity, or for taking people at their face value.

She explains, “I mean, the album is pretty honest. Not a lot of things are perfect. So, I talk about that. There’s power in that. I’m unsigned. I can do and say things that other artists can’t.” Paris elaborates “for songwriters, each song is really like a page out of our diary,” as far as the albums go, she continues, “each project is a reintroduction to me, Parisalexa, and what I’ve learned since the last time we met. For me, that’s how I speak my truth. I have to speak it through song because as a listener, that’s also what I yearn for: realness and authenticity. ”

In Paris’s experience, a lot of the messaging that musicians present is not their lived reality. It’s a song, written for them, to carry over the persona their public relations team created, and project to the media and fans. Paris knows this because she witnesses it firsthand, regularly.

“People want to talk about ‘ghostwriting’,” she air-quotes the term, laughs, and rolls her eyes. “Everyone has a ghostwriter! Songwriting is a profession! It’s a real job.”

In addition to her solo career, Paris is a signed songwriter and vocal producer with Kobalt Music. Meaning that not only does Paris get paid by other artists to write their lyrics, she arranges entire song structures for them, too. Everything, from harmonies to melodies, and even the adlib placements. She has written songs for some of the biggest names in music and teases that her biggest and most exciting songwriting credit is on the cusp of release – unfortunately, she can’t share who the track is for, just yet.

“People want to talk about ‘ghostwriting’,” she air-quotes the term, laughs, and rolls her eyes. “Everyone has a ghostwriter! Songwriting is a profession! It’s a real job. A lot of the time songwriting goes under the radar because it’s only recently that platforms like Spotify started actually giving writing credits. Before that, nobody really talked about it.” She clarifies that if an artist changed just one word in the second verse, and maybe added in an “ah”, they’d still get 50% of the writing credit. Paris jokes “They just have to be in the room and take a breath.” Even if the song was given to them completed. Emphasizing this is how most mainstream artists do it.

This is what sets Paris apart. She owns the creative control of every single aspect. With so many musicians, this isn’t the case. They don’t control their image or messaging. They don’t get to pick their songs or choose their collaborators. Those things are chosen for them, to meet their target audience. The unfortunate reality being, in the end, much of what consumers see and hear is a façade. When you listen to Paris’s projects, you’re listening to her carefully selected collaborations, with personal lyrics, about her lived experience.

Photo Credit: Carson Shipley, (Lux) Pot Shop

“Stepping into my voice was a process, a process that songwriting made a lot easier. I found my confidence in that, and then I got addicted to it.”

2 Real finds Paris leaning into the concept of “self-love” and has gone so far as to even call it the “aesthetic” of the entire album. With anthems that celebrate her physical body, like that of the already wildly successful “Slimthick” and “Chocolate,” and the title track “2 Real,” which showcases a young woman’s hardline mentality surrounding self-worth:

“Little high maintenance / Ain’t nothing that you can’t be patient with / If you take the time required / To be what I desire / And keep it a buck cuz / I ain’t fucking with a liar.”

In an industry that is as cutthroat as that of the music industry, it’s challenging to swim upstream against the current of rappers and singers who agreeably have their image created for them. In a world and political climate where honesty seems to matter less and less, holding true to her identity isn’t just an act of defiance, for Paris, it’s an act of self-affirmation. A concept she expands on while lamenting social media-centered falsehoods in track five, “Follow Me”. While her Mom, Alonda, lends some wisdom on “Intro”, exploring the same subject, in a surprise feature.

It’s impossible to deny how inspiring it is to see a 21-year-old sit so confidently in their own identity, without question.

The confidence that Paris exudes isn’t something one comes by easily though. Some of it is certainly innate. But, some of it came from pain and loneliness, and her journey with songwriting to create through those experiences.

Photo Credit: Carson Shipley, (Lux) Pot Shop

“It kind of started for me in high school, when it was just me and my songs. It was just the only place where I was able to speak my truth.”

As one of the very few black people at her homogenous suburban middle and high schools, Paris didn’t necessarily experience the same fondness of her school environment that other students did. A common thread was anti-blackness and colorism, especially towards black girls, and Paris, in particular.

“At the time, I was a little insecure and scared to use my voice. Stepping into my voice was a process, a process that songwriting made a lot easier. Found my confidence in that, and then I got addicted to it. I would skip choir class because I was writing. Would hide in the girl’s bathroom, just writing, all the time, because I had to get these experiences out. I had a lot to say and I wanted to make sure I was documenting every idea.”

“These were years where no one was hearing my songs. It was before I started showcasing them. I had a lot of time to perfect exactly what I wanted to say, and exactly how I wanted to say it. Really get comfortable and mess up, without judgment, and grow into who I am that way.”

Photo Credit: Carson Shipley, (Lux) Pot Shop

“My Mom was like ‘alright, well if you’re going to be doing this I’m going to put you in these [songwriting] camps, so you can see how to actually make this a real career.’ And that, honestly, has made all the difference.“

It was at this point that Alonda would make a critical decision, to double down on Paris’s passion, a decision that would shape her daughter’s future forever.

“My Mom was like ‘alright, well if you’re going to be doing this I’m going to put you in these [songwriting] camps, so you can see how to actually make this a real career.’ And that, honestly, has made all the difference. “

It’s this quintessential power move, making Paris a triple (if not quadruple) threat that positions her so uniquely in the music industry. She gets it. Production, songwriting, arrangement, distribution, label contracts, all of it. But the nuance that comes with giving away something you’ve poured your heart into, to someone else to make their own, knowing you may be snubbed on the credit — that’s something that can’t be taught. That’s a matter of being a person, so humble, and so secure in themselves, that they can let that part of themselves go, without too much expectation – something Paris hints at in her track “2 Optimistic” off the upcoming 2 Real album.

There’s a certain maturity that comes with seeing all sides of the music industry, the good and the bad. Not all artists can recognize flaws in the system and have the guts to say, “I’m going to change that.” But, Paris, armed with her tools to confront the industry from every crack in its foundation, is nothing, if not bold and determined.

As we wrap on the evening and say our goodbyes, I can’t help but look back at the last two hours of complete soul-baring with gratitude. It’s not something we always get access to as fans. It takes a lot for someone with a steadily growing spotlight to offer up 100% who they really are, all the time. The very act, in and of itself, is a tiny revolution; one that will undoubtedly shape how young musicians design their careers in the future.

I catch glimpses of Paris’s youth in small moments. Like when she pulls away; giggling and smiling from ear to ear, exaggerated waves goodbye, showing her sincere excitement and gratitude. Before leaving to make sure she can say goodnight to her Mom before she falls asleep. But no matter her age, and acknowledging the many years of undeniable growth as a person and artist ahead of her, there’s one thing that can’t be understated:

Parisalexa is it. Everything about her is 2 Real. It’s a realness we could all use a little more of.

parisalexa 2 real Photo Credit: Carson Shipley, (Lux) Pot Shop

PARISALEXA PROFILE

MANTRA:
“You can get wherever you want to go. It’s not about where you’re at, it’s about what you want to make happen to get you there.”

BIRTH CHART: Leo Sun, Scorpio Moon, Libra Rising

LUX POT SHOP FAVORITE: Gold Leaf Gardens Diamond Tips, anything Sativa dominant.

GO-TO SNACKS: Kettle Corn flavored Popcorners or classic pretzels.

TOP NW ARTISTS TO WATCH: “My brother, Tyler he started rapping, and he’s really good. And super dedicated, such a go-getter, it’s crazy. But other people from here that I’m excited about: BCTrey he can really sing. PMO $howtime he can sing and rap. Zayside, he raps – they’re both from the CD. My friend Kateel, for sure. Oh, and Maddy Music! She just moved here from Nashville, I think. But she’s crazy with the pen and has so much soul. There’s also my friend Talaya. She’s so dope. She tried to buy a beat from this guy and he told her he doesn’t ‘make beats for girls’ so she learned how to produce and engineer. Now she’s making the beats! Her boyfriend, Brandon Marsalis just released his album and she executive produced the whole thing. Super inspiring. There’s a lot of talent here, and they’re hungry.”

DREAM COLLABORATION:
“[laughs] I’ve got chills just thinking about it. I love Brandy. So if I was just singing with her, it could be anything. It could be one of her songs, we could do one of my songs. I would just die. Literally. It’d be over – I’d be like alright, well, there’s nothing left! That would be it for me.”

CANNABIS AND THE CREATIVE PROCESS: “It gets me in a different mindset, and it allows me to notice all these different sounds, which I hear much better when I’m elevated. It’s also a lifestyle, not just a habit you know? I have a routine about how I do things, and sometimes I’ll even use it as positive reinforcement. Like ‘oh my gosh, I really want to smoke’ but I realize that I need to get these things done with a clear head, and then when I’ve done those things I allow myself to say, ‘ok’ and step into my creative space.”

SPECIAL THANKS: “I must give a huge shout out to all the amazing producers on the 2 Real project. Jake One and Sam Wish on “4 Playin”. Wes and Taylor on “2 Optimistic”. DJ Umoore on “Slimthick”. Dee Lilly on “Chocolate”. Bean One on “Bentley Truck”. Dawty Music on “Troubled Waters”. Executive Production by Elan Wright on “Intro”, “Bentley Truck”, “2 REAL”, “Follow Me”, “11:11” and “Slimthick”. Additional Production from Jacke Crocker, CL, Nima Skeemz, Parker Joe and Kramer Originals.”

 

 


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