wax Poetics
James Dridi

'90's Kid

James Dridi of Paperboy

published online
By Danny Veekens

Just like founder James Dridi’s all-time favourite—a club sandwich—Paperboy Paris is composed of different layers: part sandwich shop and café, part streetwear brand, part creative hub. With a heavy dose of ‘90s street culture as the bacon on top. Paperboy’s collaborations show their fresh sense of style and deep love for footwear. All while their brunch spot in the Parisian neighbourhood of Le Marais also serves as an incubator for the young creatives working there.

In an interview with Hypebeast, you explain how the name Paperboy is inspired by ‘90s movies: “There’s one paperboy in all of these movies. For me, it’s not one reason, it’s general—the paperboy represents the U.S. in the ‘90s. The sneakers are the same, they’re also from the ‘90s.” Which influence did ‘90s hip-hop have on the concept of Paperboy?

There’s a strong New York City influence on Paperboy. As a kid, I was mainly listening to hip-hop from New York—A Tribe Called Quest, Group Home, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan, you name them. We even played their music when I opened the sandwich shop. From the very beginning of Paperboy, we also play WEFUNK Radio every day. So many people have asked us about our playlist… WEFUNK was a recommendation from my very good friend Rachid, who knows everything about hip-hop—he’s a rap music geek. 

You also mentioned how Paperboy has always been inspired by your childhood memories. Can you give an example of that?

When I was a kid, I loved making and eating club sandwiches. Back then I already dreamt about opening a sandwich shop! Besides that, ‘80s and ‘90s movies like Beverly Hills Cop and Home Alone, NBA basketball culture, video games, doing BMX on the streets in Paris… Those are all strong memories from my childhood. Paperboy is a blend of all of that.

Paperboy is all about community and family. In a sense, that’s what the spirit of hip-hop is also all about. Can you illustrate the community-minded workings of Paperboy?

All the people around Paperboy can be a part of Paperboy. For example, some of our waiters, clients, and friends are not only that, but also draw our designs, are DJs, or are photographers or videographers at Paperboy’s events… Everyone is creatively involved, each in their own way. Besides that, Paperboy is intended as a place to meet like-minded people. We want to connect people to each other. That’s what Paperboy is all about.

When we shot your interview for the documentary, you were wearing a La Haine sweater. In which way did that cult French film from 1995—which was heavily rooted in hip-hophave an impact on you?

La Haine impacted me because it shows guys from my generation who were not put into the spotlights before that. The film was the very first time we saw a part of the population I grew up with in full effect. That was really meaningful at that time. Also, some of the dialogue in La Haine became truly iconic.

Speaking of iconic scenes: there’s a scene in La Haine with DJ Cut Killer, who points a huge speaker to the streets and starts beat juggling with KRS-One's 'Sound of da Police' and Edith Piaf's 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.' A clash of hip-hop and French culture. Was that an important moment for you?

Yes, that’s actually one of my favourite moments in the movie! After La Haine was released, in some neighbourhoods in the north of Paris you would see that happening in real life: kids who put their speakers out of their window to play music out loud into the streets. That scene was an inspiring moment for my generation.

Let’s go back to that era for a second. What are your earliest memories of discovering hip-hop?

During my first year of high school, I had a friend whose brother was a rapper. He had an amazing collection of hip-hop music and she began to bring me a new CD every week. Mostly US hip-hop like Nas or A Tribe Called Quest. That’s when I really started to develop a big love for hip-hop.

In the documentary, you also mention seeing DJ Premier live in Paris at an early age. How did that concert impact you?

DJ Premier performed at Le Bus Palladium in Paris. I don’t remember the exact date, but I was in my early twenties. I particularly liked that concert because there weren’t a lot of people as it was a small room, so that night had a lasting impression on me. Back then I listened to Gang Starr CDs all the time. I think my favourite album of Gang Starr is Moment of Truth.

Polaroid releases a documentary in partnership with some of Europe’s most prominent creative individuals and communities, exploring the influence of hip-hop on contemporary culture in London, Paris and Amsterdam. See the full documentary here on May 18th. 

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