With the long-anticipated release of a new Frank Ocean album finally coming to fruition, another equally elusive artist came to mind: Jai Paul.
Jai Paul is an artist who came into the scene having already formed a unique and personal sound, a sound that you can recognise as his own from hearing a few seconds of most of the songs he’s made. And trust, I’ve looked for similar styled artists, artists who try similar things in their experimental production, but it always feels as if they’re either not as good as Jai Paul or that they’re copying him rather blatantly.
Paul being elusive however is not to say he’s unknown – having only one demo underneath his belt, XL Recordings signed to him to a deal in 2010, releasing an edit of the track a year later in 2011. ‘BTSTU’ is a stunning track, especially considering it was Jai Paul’s first full-fledged effort. Juxtaposition is used to full effect, with half the track being led by a surprisingly powerful falsetto which is backed by a harmonic vocal melody, and the other introducing itself with wave after wave of distorted synth along with Paul’s regular singing voice. The whole track is chocked full of effects, and introduced us to one of Jai Paul’s personal favourites, the sidechain, providing moments of subdued almost-silence, a palpitation-like impact. Although the parts individually seem to be rather upbeat, ‘BTSTU’ at its heart is rather angry, the opening lines becoming comic once you understand what they actually are (something which can be quite difficult with Paul’s music):
“Don’t fuck with me, don’t fuck with me
Since you shipped my ass off to sea”
The demo provided Paul with a copious amount of media coverage, being played by DJs such as Zane Lowe and Annie Mac, as well as being sampled by heavyweights such as Drake (‘Dreams Money Can Buy’) and Beyonce (‘The End of Time’).
A year later came his next track, ‘Jasmine’ which again received similar critical acclaim, once again being lauded by Lowe and Mac. Guitar features more prominently in the track, an electric guitar laying down the main chord progression whilst what seems to be a bass guitar with an auto-wah effect providing some funk-era vibes. ‘Jasmine’ also marks the formal appearance of Jai Paul’s brother, A.K. Paul, who is credited not only with bass design but also c0-writing props as well (A.K. Paul has since worked with artists such as Sam Smith, Emeli Sande, and Miguel, but has also remained rather elusive). The tone of the song was less aggressive, more romanticised, presenting a desire for a something or a someone, rather than a push away from it.
Work with artists such as Big Boi on the track ‘Higher Res’ (upon which he left a definite mark) followed, until 2013, where an artist’s (especially an artist like Jai Paul) worst nightmare was realised – a Bandcamp album was released supposedly under the guise of it being Paul’s debut effort, with the internet being set ablaze before Paul himself said it was a leak. This didn’t stop the hype surrounding it though, Jai Paul being listed in various ‘Best Albums of the Year’ lists. In reality, it was obvious that the album was not ready to be released, the mixing on many of the tracks was extremely unbalanced (and not in an edgy, “ooh it’s Jai Paul so it’s fine” kind of way), and many of the recordings were almost too distorted. Perhaps most noticeably was the far inferior version of ‘Jasmine’ that featured on the album.
That being said, the leaked album is by far one of the most exciting and explosive listenings I’ve had the joy to experience. Explosive and far reaching synths, arcade-sounds, Harry Potter samples, Bollywood samples, extreme sidechaining, layered guitar, and more all combine to give an incredibly genre-bending and unique album. And yet despite this, we haven’t heard anything from Jai Paul since. No one knows if these tracks were the finished product, whether or not we should be listening to them, or whether or not Paul has simply thrown these tracks away (a testament to the skill and musicality of the artist). The last posts on Paul’s Twitter and Facebook have both been from 2013 stating that the album was indeed a leak – nothing else has appeared on either social media format:
Alas we have heard virtually nothing from Jai Paul since. This year he started The Paul Institute with his brother, though the only track that has surfaced from there has been A.K. Paul’s ‘Landcruisin”.
In the age of the internet where everything is at our fingerprints, Jai Paul has managed to stay out of the spotlight – do not think this is a show of disinterest, or a lack of desire to produce more music, rather it is a sign of perfectionism and knowledge of timing, that when he feels his music is ready to be revealed bare he will do so. And I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting the day.
This article was written by Mo Hafeez