Undoubtedly set to become one of the biggest entertainment names in and from NZ, it seems Parris Goebel aka Parri$ can do no wrong. Career-wise the Samoan-Kiwi has accomplished more feats in her 25 years than most of us could dream of. With successes in dance, acting, choreographing, directing and now singing/rapping, the woman is talented, fierce, and going from strength to strength. After winning The Arts Foundation’s New Generation Award in 2016, she was named as one of three Kiwis on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 biggest influencers of the Asia/Pacific region in early May 2017. Parris gave Lana Andelane a little insight into her hectic world, particularly following her recent debut into the music scene with her LA-recorded solo venture ‘Vicious’.
Backtracking to her beginnings in the suburbs of South Auckland, Parris Goebel’s Polynesian heritage is a source of pride and inspiration for her personally and professionally.
“Being a Samoan has influenced me strongly about family values and the importance of loyalty, trust and doing things for others. It’s so important for our younger generation to see people achieving things and knowing anything is possible if you are willing to work hard.”
Coming from such a relatively small place to rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the music industry, I asked what people overseas tend to know about NZ music – particularly in light of Lorde’s rise to international fame in recent years. While admitting that our music is “more talked about artist by artist”, she affirms that our music undoubtedly has a place in the global scene.
“We have a lot of Kiwis working as writers, producers and musicians around the world and doing great work,” says Parris, demonstrating her clear pride in what Kiwi’s are accomplishing on the international scale.
Parris’s background in dance, with her early recognition in ReQuest to the tremendous global success of her crew The Royal Family, has solidified her as a creative leader in the dance scene. She credits her recent burst into the music scene, to her involvement with dance.
Her move into the music industry, with 2016 singles Nasty and Friday heralding her debut album called ‘Vicious’, was evidently a simple one.
“Being involved in dance made it a great transition into making the music to do dance too,” she explains. “I hopped into a studio and just started recording, and really enjoyed making music.”
As a girl with humble beginnings in Manurewa who has since worked closely with top echelon artists such as Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, and Jason Derulo (to name a few), does she now find it ‘normal’ to live in this Hollywood world of fame and celebrity?
“I am used to working with celebrities now and what I find is they really appreciate it when you are just yourself and treat them like everyday people and with respect. The key is to know what is required when you step into that world and then make sure you keep it real when going back to everyday life.”
‘Vicious’ successfully established her presence in the popular music scene, showing a fresh dance take on current rap and hip hop – though she says the sound is much more widely influenced.
“I grew up with listening mainly to R&B, slow jams and good soul music. My sound today is influenced by all genres and so many different sounds that I really like to make all different types of music.”
Time magazine reviewed ‘Vicious’ as ‘‘…unapologetic, percussive hip hop’ while also likening her distinct sound to that of the great Missy Elliot. One would assume she drew inspiration from American hip hop when creating her sound but Parris insists that it is her uniqueness as an artist that’s of utmost importance.
“To be honest I try to just make my own original sound and don’t want to be likened to other artists. I seek to be individual and to create a real unique and different sound to what you hear today,” she says. “My music is all about the beat and I definitely created songs to dance and move to. Hip hop has given me that strong beat throughout the tracks and also having something that makes you want to get up out of your seat.”
Artists collaborating across the album’s 10 tracks showcase an interesting diversity of musical genres and styles, including R&B singer and fellow New Zealander Sammy J and Jamaican dancehall artist Deewun.
“Meeting different artists in my travels, in LA and Houston, I just gravitated to people who I liked and were fun to work with,” she explains. “Every person offers something different so you are always working and making things together.”
With her proven talent for choreography, directing, and dance, it’s a given that she would be heavily involved with the creative process of the music videos for ‘Vicious’,
Bold, daring, and creative, the music videos released for ‘Vicious’ were unsurprisingly closely overseen by Parris. While praising the team of people who worked with her to bring everything to life she clearly kept close control over the concept, styling, choreography, directing and editing.
The definition of a girl boss, yet with so much on her plate it’s clearly impossible that she could be running it all solo. Yes, she does play a huge role in running her business but has found the perfect business partner in her father.
“It has always been me and my dad. Then we have a team in the USA who we work with around the world,” she explains.
Parris has clearly made her mark as a strong, empowered woman within America’s male-dominated hip hop industry. Locally she’s rightly recognised for it, winning, among other accolades, the Young Leader category of the NZ Women of Influence Awards in 2015. So does she knowingly use performance as a form of empowerment for other females?
“My main thing is to empower women to be themselves and do great things. It is so important to me to see our young upcoming generation be inspired and to believe in themselves. I would hope that I can at least get our young women to rise up and change the world.”
In the past Parris has tended to use the term ‘polyswag’ as a way of describing her distinct visual style, crediting it to her Samoan heritage.
“The most important thing is to be YOU. There is only one of each of us in the world so everyone needs to know their own image and to make sure you are confident and strong in your identity.”
Having ticked off all the steps from local amateur to world-stage professional dance and choreography, leading to international stage and video engagements with so many top echelon artists, and now her own music release, she seems to be a one-woman ‘Parris Goebel Empire’.
Finally, there’s the question about key challenges she faces being such a multi-faceted career-woman – particularly in the notoriously US music industry. Her short answer: “Making sure I build a credible name for myself and are respected for my art,” clearly demonstrates how much pressure she puts on herself in order to be the best she can be in all her various pursuits.
What are her next goals? “I definitely want to make a movie. Create a show for Broadway, do more directing and continue my journey as an artist.”
Clearly, the force of Parris Goebel is unstoppable.