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.

Photo courtesy of 1-54/SUTTON.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Landing in Marrakech is 2018's Most Anticipated Art Event

The leading art fair dedicated to contemporary African art makes its mark on the continent for the first time this weekend.

This weekend, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading art fair devoted to contemporary African art, will debut in Marrakech, Morocco. The announcement of the Fair's expansion to the continent last year has left aficionados of contemporary African art in eager anticipation of this "homecoming"—this author included.

1-54 debuted in London in 2013. Although an expansion to New York followed, a presence on the continent was always part of the long-term vision of the founder Touria El Glaoui. Finally, the time has now arrived.

Here are five reasons why we're looking forward to 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Marrakech.

Keep reading... Show less

This Olympic Figure Skater Blew Us Away Again By Pulling Off a Costume Change Mid-Routine

First Maé-Bérénice Méité performed to Beyoncé, now she's effortlessly slaying outfit changes mid-routine. What can't she do?

French-Congolese and Ivorian figure skater, Maé-Bérénice Méité, has pretty much been the life of the Winter Olympic figure skating competition.

Earlier this month, the athlete had the internet shook when she performed her opening routine to two Beyoncé songs. Now she's back with even more black girl magic.

Keep reading... Show less
Video still via YouTube.

10 Stand Out Moments From Janelle Monáe's Powerful Music Videos

Janelle Monae came back making a statement—and we're just as obsessed as you are.

We've got to talk about Janelle Monáe.

Over the past half decade, she's embarked on a profound journey that's solidified her as an artist, creator and activist who isn't afraid to shoot down the stars—or shoot with them.

After having roles in Hidden Figures and Moonlight—two Oscar nominated movies where one won an Oscar, a stellar speech at the Grammy's and a stunning presence at the Black Panther red carpet, she's ready to grace us with "Dirty Computer," the latest musical venture in her Afrofuturistic saga.

To whet our appetites before the album, which is set to release on April 27, Janelle dropped not one but two music videos yesterday. Both are distinctly entertaining: one is a black, intersectional feminist anthem and the other a psychedelic soundtrack of sexual fluidity.

Watch both, then read some of the highlights we gathered from the hypnotizing visuals and powerful wordplay.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.