That was an incredible performance. How did it feel to finally connect with this crowd for the first in 254?
Wow. There is plenty of energy vibrating in Nairobi. I love crowds that accept people from different cultures. What’s beautiful about Nairobi or rather Kenya is that you open doors for people to come and experience your love and culture and it feels amazing.
Was Nairobi your first stop on your tour?
I actually just came from Congo, my home country, last week before stepping here. It was good to reconnect with my people.
You were born in Paris, but grew up in New York. Did this ever inhibit your connection to the Congolese culture?
I might have grown up away from my ancestral land, but it never took away the African-ness in us. My family values our roots and my folks made sure we remained in tune with our identity. As an African son and musician, growing up the way I was raised has immensely translated into my creativity. My music borrows a lot from our traditions and culture back home.
That explains why your music, which leverages on trap, hip-hop, electronic dance music (EDM), has elements dating back to African traditional sounds and beats.
Spot on. I was born into music. My parents were musicians and my father, who is my king, co-founded the National Ballet of Congo. He is a great source of inspiration and influence to me. I started dancing at a young age and eventually got into singing, which has sprouted into everything else I do today as an artiste. They encouraged the musician in me to exist. Growing up in New York, I was in the heart of hip-hop culture. Having these diverse sounds at my disposal guided the rhythm of my sound and so I intermingle them into what you hear in my music.
And it is this unique rhythmical Afro-beat touched sound that landed you into Roc Nation under the wing of Jay-Z. How does it feel to be part of this world-class music stable that hosts the likes of Rihanna and Big Sean?
I would have never guessed that one day I’d end up working alongside Jay-Z. This is someone I grew up listening to and greatly admire. He welcomed me into the Roc Nation family in 2016 and I’ve received overwhelming support from the crew beyond my career. He embraces my sound and has given me the space to explore and experiment with music. Growing together with them by my side is a gift I don’t take for granted. It’s hard not to love and respect Jay-Z when you get to know him. He values our team.
That’s incredible. You just released a new album, My Tribe, under Roc Nation. Tell us about it.
My Tribe is a fusion of beats that talks about the importance of family. It has 15 tracks that took three months to create. They will all be followed by videos. I wanted to share it with my fans on my tour and thus I performed a couple of the songs here. I hope people find essence in it.
Speaking of family, your brand, Melanin, is a unifying concept that has amassed a following. What were your intentions when setting it up?
Melanin is everything. As people of colour, we are a rising revolution. Melanin is a big social media conversation I started to inspire people of colour to celebrate their excellence and beauty. It is a project that is needed in this age when the black community is fighting for fairness and representation. It’s what I still do in music. It is in my soul to never forget who I am and share the love with my people.
It’s a conversation that you’ve been vocal about not only through music and such concepts, but your bold sense of style too. What does the face paint you always have on symbolise?
I’m an African artiste and this face paint is a cultural identity that reminds me of who I am and where I come from. As a Congolese, I come from a culture where people love to dress up in flamboyance and that explains why my style is different with traditional African elements.
Will you come back to Kenya again?
Without a doubt. I’m an African son and I feel welcome wherever I go. I have received so much warmth and love in Nairobi. I will be back.
Lastly, what does your name Milandou mean in Congolese?
Milandou means the follower and protector of twins. In our village in Congo, whenever there are twins, the following child is always named Milandou, and that is who I am.