popular
MHD. Photo by Elisa Parron.

"I'm Still Young With A Lot to Say:" MHD On His Journey to Afro-Trap Stardom

We speak to the 23-year-old pioneer of Afro-Trap about life in the musical spotlight.

This interview was conducted in French and translated to English for this feature.

"How does it feel starting your tour," is the question I ask MHD, just 45 minutes before his Boston stop of his highly anticipated U.S. tour.


"[It feels like an] American Dream," he says. "It's a dream—to be 23 and to have a USA tour is something that is unheard of in France…I'm at a loss for words. At the same time, I'm not scared."

Two years ago, Mohamed Sylla better known as MHD uploaded a YouTube video that changed the trajectory of his life forever. Very rapidly, his first video amassed a following that led to more videos, a double platinum album, commercials for Real Madrid and Adidas, a gig as a Puma brand ambassador and concerts all over the world.

Today, the 23-year-old Afro-Trap pioneer has adjusted to fame despite admitting, "At the beginning, it's hard to leave your house and have to take photos every day or people asking you for autographs. I'm surrounded by a great team so I'm unfazed."

"I live in the center of Paris so going out to get a baguette is something that isn't the easiest for me to do anymore. I often camouflage myself with a hat and sunglasses," he says.

Like any artist, he's had some hurdles to overcome. "The hardest part of being famous is dealing with people's opinions or critiques," he says, "but I create my music and don't pay mind to the rest." He exudes the confidence and wisdom of someone who hasn't just begun to reap the benefits of the path set for him.

It should come as no surprise that this boy from the 19th arrondissement has made a name for himself in the music industry. He recounts, "I grew up in a home where traditional African music was always played. In my teenage years, I listened to French rap. These two genres were what I heard when I went to work, school and in the living room with my brothers and sisters—I wrote my first song at 17."


🇬🇳❤️🍃#PetitPrinceEstDevenuRoi
A post shared by MHD OFFICIEL (@mhdofficiel) on Oct 6, 2017 at 4:18am PDT


Six years later his body of work is comprised of urban and African instrumentals that speaks to a global audience. The artist, who assertively labels his music as "other", is more likely to collaborate with an African artist like Wizkid but loves the idea of juxtaposing his sound with someone who is the opposite of him like Celine Dion. His list of favorite musicians includes new school Drake and old school Tupac. He's overwhelmed when asked to name African musicians but fires off a few names, "Koffi Olomide, Salif Keita, Davido and Mr Eazi." Luckily for him, in August, he was the only French artist to perform at London's Boy Better Know Takeover and snapped a picture with Drake.



A couple weeks before his tour, the artist announced his gimmicky Afro-Trap music series would stop at Part 10. I learned it was complete and he was waiting for the right moment to drop it. I even tried to get a sneak peak to no avail. I implored the music video for the track be an incredible culmination of the series. "All good things must come to an end," the self-promo guru says. "You have to know when to stop. It's like Zidane when he stopped playing soccer; there's a lot of fans who would like to see him keep playing but he ended his career in a grand way."

When MHD made that analogy, I was reminded just how much he loves soccer. His music consistently pays homage to the sport. "I always dreamed of being a soccer player. I still do," he says. "Whenever there's a soccer ball near me, I want to kick it. Football is my second wife. It's hard to detach myself." Much like Zinedine Zidane in his prime, MHD's career shows no signs of slowing down. "I just turned 23 a couple days ago, so I'm still young with a lot to say," he says. "I am sure there will be a time when I will have to retreat and focus on something else but for now I will keep making music." Why would he stop when he's backed by a family of 15 siblings and a diverse community that's proud of him? In Afro-Trap Pt. 5 when he says, "Marseille, Bordeaux et Lille, Strasbourg, Nantes, Paris m'valident," he lists off some of the cities supporting him.


Avec le peuple 🌎🌍🌏
A post shared by MHD OFFICIEL (@mhdofficiel) on Oct 1, 2017 at 8:54pm PDT


While he was on tour, Puma's second collaboration with Daily Paper dropped with him serving as a model against a Ghanaian backdrop. The Fall collection came as part of an initiative to promote Puma's continuous partnership with African football and the building of a football pitch at the Accra Senior Girls School. When asked what causes move him MHD says, "African youth. I want to help them gain opportunities, get scholarships to study abroad, pass soccer tests and get cast in acting roles. They all have dreams. If I can realize my dreams, why can't they? There's so much hidden talent on the african continent that doesn't get illuminated." I hold that this kind of mentality is just what we need to move the continent forward.

Much like in his song "Bravo" he says, "Petit prince est devenu roi" which translates to, "The little prince has become king." The self-proclaimed King of Afro-Trap smiles and states, "I hope someone comes to take my place. I hope Afro-trap continues for decades to come and the movement touches Mexico, China, etc…"

The independent artist has completed 6 to 7 songs on his second album and boasts being able to take his time to finish it. We can expect authenticity from the project as he affirms, "You won't hear me talking about jet setting here and there or driving Rolls Royces. I speak candidly about what I'm living and what I hope to accomplish. No lies."

I, personally, am silently hoping for a few surprise collaborations because Diplo appeared at his tour stop in LA. He's even working on an Afro-Trap line with Puma. If the aforementioned is an indication of anything, his star is sure to keep shining bright.

Keep up with MHD on Instagram and Twitter.

Audrey Lang is an alumna of Northeastern University and a Boston-based site merchandiser. A surveyor of life who's enamored with all things fashion, art and Africa, keep up with her on Instagram and Tumblr.

News

The Ethiopian Government Has Asked Olympic Runner In Exile, Feyisa Lilesa, to Return Home

After two years in exile, the Olympic athlete will return home and receive a "hero's welcome."

Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian runner who went into exile in 2016 after bravely protesting the Ethiopian government's brutal treatment of its Oromo population at the Rio Olympics, has been invited to return to home.

After living in self-imposed exile United States for two years the marathoner, who demonstrated by crossing his fists as he reached the finish line and claimed the silver medal, has been extended an offer to return to his homeland and compete for his country once again by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation and the country's Olympic committee. According to VOA News, the runner will return home in the coming weeks with his wife and children.

"Athlete Feyisa Lilesa has scored great results at the Rio Olympics and other athletics competitions enabling Ethiopia's flag to be hoisted to great heights," read a joint letter from the two athletics organizations.

"We want Lilesa to return to his home country to resume his athletics competition and upon his return we are prepared to give him a hero's welcome."

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Image via GovernmentZA's Flickr.

Could Justice Finally Be on the Horizon for Marikana Massacre Families?

New evidence suggests that the police intended to kill all along.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, when 34 mine-workers were gunned down by police after several days of wage disputes at Lonmin Mine in Rustenburg, North West province. New information was recently uncovered that undermines the police's longstanding claim that they acted in self-defence. If anything, it is a glimmer of hope for the families of the victims that remain left behind in the aftermath of that tragedy.

It was the worst mass civilian killing since the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where South African protesters were killed for opposing the Apartheid regime. The Marikana Massacre, in contrast, was the tragic consequence of week-long wage disputes and clashes between miners and the South African police.

While media footage appears to show the miners as the victims, police have always argued that they were acting in self defence. Consequently no officers involved have been charged. Instead, the surviving mineworkers face murder charges under the doctrine of common purpose. But unnerving facts have come to light that seem to make the police argument even less likely. This includes the ordering of 4000 rounds of live ammunition and several vans from the mortuary the day before the massacre.

I cannot even begin to unpack my anger and frustration at this terrible irony.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Remembering Aretha Franklin and Her Heartfelt Connection With Nelson Mandela

In honor of the Queen of Soul's immeasurable impact, we revisit her passionate support of Nelson Mandela, and the anti-apartheid movement, through her musical tributes.

Iconic singer, Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" passed away on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Franklin was considered by many to be the greatest singer of all time. Her influence on popular music cannot be overstated. The legendary artist sold 75 million records and earned 18 Grammys in a career spanning six decades and she was influential in many global social movements as well.

Having been a widely-embraced public figure for so long, Franklin was present for some of the biggest events of the 20th century, including the funeral of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.

Upon Mandela's release, the singer played a unique role in welcoming him to the States by performing at a freedom rally in his honor in Detroit. Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and Stevie Wonder were also in attendance for the historic night. During the celebration, Franklin called the anti-apartheid leader on stage, where he spoke about listening to and appreciating "the Detroit, Motown Sound" while he was in prison.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.