Emoji summary: ✨ 🌊 〰️
I am writing this text because I feel like every piece of writing I read about Jai Paul & his music has been written in a specific way; either latching on to the technical or the historical canon that his music exists in, or analysing in a ~cultural commentary~ way how his impact has reverberated & functioned. None of the texts I’ve read have touched the sides of what his mystical impact has felt like, what his music has affected in people; the somatic currents I think he rly understands. I don’t want to write about hype or cultural capital or daft punk & the death of music journalism. There are music bros who rub their nuts on their mixing boards who can do that. I wana write about Jai Paul like he is an artist whose work I am encountering with my body & my gut. Bc that is what he is to me.
I think I first heard Jasmine in 2012, an art school party, makes sense. Dark room lit only by a SAD lamp & fairy lights, bodies moving to a beat in the dark like fat grapes rolling on the floor. I was out of it, but living. I remember the leaked album, vaguely. But Jai Paul’s output and trajectory has been a genuine part of his work. He was this fucking myth, this image, this elusive enigma. All anyone knew was that he did mad music & he was from Rayners Lane. He put out 2 demos on myspace (i think?); BTSTU & Jasmine. There was also a rough edit of another track called str8 outta Mumbai, which I fucking clung to for no other reason than its pulsating rawness; this mystical cross over of a London accent that sampled an Indian beat & snippets. A friend sent me a video of a fan edit with clips from (i think) a song sequence with Helen? Muddled on top, and I lost my shit. It was something I wish I’d made. In 2013, the hype surrounding him was also a pulsating mess; this vacuum of 2 demos, no albums, clips and odd-bits, but nothing official. And then, one night, there was a leak of an unfinished album online, his laptop was stolen and the thief posted the unfinished drafts on Bandcamp. It was kinda brutal, people accused Jai of lying and leaking it himself to serve his own mythology, but it was rly obvious that these tracks were ripped from him at a halfway, soft-point. They weren’t ready. From then till May 2019, Jai Paul has been nowhere to be seen (unless you live in Rayners Lane, then I am told he sometimes goes into the kfc near the station at ~lunchtime). People have been tweeting ‘where is jai paul’, ‘free jai paul’, ‘i hope jai paul is having a good day’ almost weekly. In his absence, still he was present. Like Frank Ocean’s 4 year hiatus, he was felt and clung to. Fuck, isn’t that so incredible? Some art school kid from NW London made stuff so fucking good, people were raging about his absence. What a guy.
Jai Paul’s birthday is the same day as mine. I think nearly all Cancerians are meant to be artists. There is something about astrology twitter/meme-makers, I think, that misunderstands our ability to process emotions & thoughts as one clean deliverable swipe. Where some astrology meme-makers fall back on the external common denominator of portraying us as hypersensitive crybabies; this misses the power we have. Cancer is a cardinal water sign, we have the force and will to push things into motion, we are upheaval. We lead from the heart, say things with our entire chest (even if we go on to regret it, but that is rare), we are able to render an emotion or a feeling into palpability, enveloping in a way that can push the present into a whole new territory. It is not the damp feebleness of tears, but the slow raging power of saltwater on skin; leaving a residue. We might be the crying emoji, but we are also the cowboy emoji, all at the same time. I think, where some think-pieces complain about how vacuous it was that Jai fabricated hype so efficiently with only 2 fucking demos and no official releases, they miss the root of it all. He is like a Cancer’s final form, able to render his output so distinctly and honestly, it is like listening to a body from the inside.
It was midnight & I was in Copenhagen. It was the 27th day of ramadan: Laylat al qadr, the night of power, when the Quran was revealed to Muhammad (saws). I was in bed, scrolling through Twitter & I saw people tweeting about a new Jai Paul album. I came down the next day and Gab thought I’d lost the plot bc it was all I could talk about. Now, editing this text, she says; ‘Like you came to breakfast the next day like a crazy person who’d been up all night on the phone to someone they fancy, or someone who woke up early to queue to be on the first row at a concert’. I was wittering on about Jasmine on Bronze being the peak of a tech x art crossover, and she was so baffled as to why I’d just bought a t-shirt & some vinyls. She said ‘Do you even have a record player?’ Reader, I do (IT’S MY DAD’S FROM THE 80S).
Jasmine has always been my favourite song. It’s the most visible for sure, but it’s also the most meticulously crafted imo. For years I had no idea what he was actually really saying for the most of it; and tbh I still don’t really want to know. But it is achingly, yearningly, painfully beautiful. The way the bass underneath it all rumbles in, P A L P A B L E, a bodily presence through the entire track. I feel this song with my collarbones. The slapping riff over the top is level with his voice, that bobs in and out of audible vision. In and within all this cardinal energy of upheaval, I think is also a tentative self-consciousness. His voice is never entirely audible; it is always partly hidden, or at least level with another sound that contradicts it. Melody is a slippery object, rhythm too, this song is hazy. It makes me feel the same way I do about Dil Se, like I watched that entire film through a pane of glass. This sound mounts to a moment where the climax is a clarity and everything pushes over a peak and disintegrates yet again. This felt amplified and super identifiable with the version that’s on Bronze - all clearer how the music is layered into components that drift together and come loose. It feels like abstraction (in the way I wrote about with Frank Bowling’s work last week), like a deconstruction and repeated deployment, reassembling obliterated parts to make something cogent or coherent in a way that is new and separate. Like a tether between the room & an astral plane, this song is meticulous, it understands the rhythm of a body - circadian & fleshy. In this way, it is magic. It is something for nothing, where why or how are the wrong question. It is opacity, pounding & tender.
I am getting carried away. I am projecting, hard. The album that people were tweeting about in May wasn’t The Debut Album. It was all the bits, the drafts and unfinished snippets that were stolen and illegally released in 2013 by someone else. I feel like any thoughts I have about the album are kinda soft & unfinished. I also think measuring it against ~finished works~ is kinda an exercise in futility bc it is very clear that these are snippets, a glimpse of a halfway point. It is only a release in the sense that I think it’s a Releasing, as verb, of that moment. I think this makes them feel all the more chewy, though. They have an interrupted kinda potential and promise that only exists in an imaginary. I feel like in and amongst a fine art audience, the bottomless horror of showing something before it’s ready is all the more relatable. But we got 2 new singles equally as careful / precise as jasmine and BTSTU. Do You Love Her Now is the same flavour of aching n longing. There is a really good text about the beauty of having a crush, I am going to leave it here. I think Jai Paul writes songs with limerence in mind. Like glistening, glittering water, he makes songs where sound just fucking shimmers. Like a fucking slow jam with the car roof down, it’s a weird kind of ~cool~, underwater sensuality that is too slippery for me to grip onto atm. Reflective, heavy & bursting; like sun streaming through grey clouds after rain. It is a puncture to an external air of mystery by firmly n solidly planting itself in the realm of the body as it slowly moves. Soft falsetto, rumbling bass again, moaning guitar/synth/whatever the fuck it is on top w the pinging bits.
I think this is the music of a person who finds empowerment in the cleansing truth of their emotion unbound. You can feel it, his very insides are in the music, it’s all felt with a sincerity that is tangible. There is a power in naked vulnerability, truth. It is upheaval and it is force; water crashing against wet sand. It is in processing raw corporeal somatic chaos, filtering that through the body & pressing it into a tightly compressed diamond with your very fists; his music is meticulous art. Turn yourself inside out; isn’t there a beauty in the power of what tears can render?