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A Will Cleveland Pop-Ed: The Mysterious and Magical World of Jai Paul

I am a voracious music devourer. (And yes, I am proud of myself for pulling an SAT word out of the back of my brain.) When I discover new music, I like to play amateur detective. Since we have previously established that I like to listen to off-the-radar, obscure stuff, Wikipedia is often pretty useless in this endeavor.

A few years ago, I discovered the music (or should I say song) of Jai Paul, a mysterious figure in the modern digital age of music. I instantly took to Wikipedia and found only this: “Jai Paul is a British songwriter and record producer from Rayners Lane, United Kingdom. He is signed to XL Recordings.” Usually my first step in my sleuthing is to take to Google. But a simple Google search still doesn’t present many clues. Jai Paul is pretty much a blank slate at this point. His Bandcamp page is empty. (Or at least we can reasonably assume that it might be his Bandcamp page.) It states, “No tracks here yet. Log in to add some!”

At that point in 2010, BTSTU was the only song credited to Jai Paul. The song — BTSTU (Edit) — was instantly mesmerizing. I had never heard anything like it (and I still haven’t). It combines Indian influences with wobbly dub-influenced bass lines and a unique R&B sensibility. (Here is where I will use more of the scholarly Wikipedia to inform my argument.) Wikipedia tells us that Jai Paul combines pop, contemporary, R&B, chillwave, indie, electronica, hip hop and funk in his music. And here is the point in the article where I tell you to take 3 minutes and 33 seconds to listen to it. (I will wait patiently until you have done so.)

BTSTU caught the attention of some musical bigwigs and resulted in Paul signing with esteemed British indie goliath XL Recordings. (Keep in mind how huge and crazy this is. XL is the home of Radiohead, Jack White and Adele.) The song was eventually sampled by Drake (Dreams Money Can Buy) and Beyonce (’Till The End Of Time). (Ever notice how my Drake obsession surfaces in every article I write? Not sure what that says about my mental state.) In April 2012, another Paul song was released. This one — entitled Jasmine (Demo) — built on the slow momentum of the other track.

So let’s recap: In three years, Paul has released two songs and supplied vocals for a third (Big Boi’s Higher Res). Not exactly prolific, but it all lends itself to a wonderful sense of mythology. In an era where everything is shared on the Internet through social media and music blogs, we basically know nothing about Paul. It’s fucking fantastic and it’s truly impressive.

This extended introduction served as a set-up for the real purpose of this article: The sudden release of Paul’s self-titled debut album in April. Late on Monday, April 15, my Twitter feed exploded. Paul had apparently (and rather quietly) released his debut album through his Bandcamp page. None of the 15 tracks had a title. I bought the album as soon as I learned of its existence. I downloaded it and consumed it multiple times that night. I was completely enthralled and blown away. It never occurred to me that the album wasn’t a legitimate release. Sure, the bitrate and quality of the songs was kinda low, but it didn’t matter, because the world finally had a Jai Paul album. In the coming days, as the music illuminati dissected the mysterious Paul album, it was confirmed through his Twitter feed (and also through XL) that the album was a fake. It was alleged that the music was somehow stolen from Paul.

I eventually got my money back. I feel sorry that Paul didn’t get his refund. But the music remained. It hit me like no other release has this year. You can’t get a do-over in this Internet age, but I am still excited to see what the future holds for Paul. I just hope I don’t have to wait years to hear new music.
A Will Cleveland Pop-Ed: The Mysterious and Magical World of Jai Paul Reviewed by Will Cleveland on 12/05/2013 Rating: 5

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