Updated: Jul 23, 2019
Let Jai Paul’s 6-year restrain from the music industry be a caution to the potential detriment of crossing artists’ boundaries.
He’s become an enigma to his audience, notorious for pulling back after hints towards colossal statements. The 3-year gap between his 2009 single BTSTU and 2012’s Jasmine should speak for itself. But once he spilled his heart into a full set of exploratory demos, someone managed to swipe the files out of his hands. The perpetrator casually uploaded them online in their draft state. Jai’s recent commentary on the subject disclosed that this invasion stripped him of drive, and affected him enough to retract into hiding for 6 years. He’s only just now feeling comfortable jumping back into the sphere; after all, someone’s will to create can be touchy. It has to be consistently looked after & encouraged. Something this brash towards someone only beginning to poke their head into a field can be fatal.
Now, Jai seems to want to close this chapter for himself. Setting aside his perfectionism towards nitty gritty details and accepting the project’s potential flaws is certainly a statement; what a way of decidedly owning a past trauma to move forward.
This gives music buffs reason to celebrate, because the remastered version is a feast with flavors as exquisite as the cover. Its stacked images of varying sensations mirrors how he stuffs its sound to the brim. Jai starts a song by laying down a groundwork of thuddy drums that reverberate & massage the ears, then invites everything else in. His approach to r&b is sweet enough to feel like soaking in sunshine, but the feverish, kaleidoscopic melodies are also a backdrop for cyclical stops. A consistent side-chain effect vacuums them in and gives it a sense of rigidity.
Since these auditory colors are multifaceted enough to occupy your attention alone, it gives Jai a lyrical vessel to fill any way he wants. This means it’s abundantly clear that his vague suggestions toward an infatuation for a woman come straight from the heart. His presence as a singer only elevates this. He has a falsetto that may not be crisp, but communicates a tangible vulnerability. Even in all the record’s flashy eccentricity, it doesn’t neglect the power of a human touch.
The album’s most syrupy, suave bangers appear right out the gate. Str8 Outta Mumbai’s vocal melodies & synthesizers soar vastly until swiveling synth coils & tender saxophones grab the track’s control. Zion Wolf Theme starts like a stirring safari w/ native drums & influxes of synth currents, then the melodies become as feeble as the lyrics. Vibin’ hints towards a similar setting, but touches like the reverb on Jai’s vocals and its lustrous samples make it feel more like it’s echoing out into a dark rainforest. Nocturnal, glossy grooves are plentiful in the record: All Night, Crush, & Jasmine are prime examples. The latter’s cascades of shimmery samples & bass feels like falling down a chute, & Crush is a more reserved, sly take on the idea.
The scrapbooky nature of the production is well complemented by the structural layout of Desert River. It swaps in fresh melodies left and right as the drums beat it to a pulp & confidently smack it the more it advances. This track & BTSTU end off the album with an unbridled boldness that’s refreshing after all its emotional uncertainty. Jai asserts that he’s back and wants something he previously had on lock; it’s an eerie parallel to his return to music.
My tangents on the record’s highs could continue endlessly, but here & there cuts do seem tossed in for the sake of taking up space. It surely wouldn’t harm the experience to remove Good Time & Baby Beat, & its runtime would feel less daunting too. Nevertheless, a few short motifs induce more feeling or help its flow. Garden of Paradise’s wash of synths resembles twinkling lights or rain pattering on a windowsill, and Chix introduces a tonal change that the following cut can build from.
Despite a few nitpicks here & there, this release has a distinct kick to it that can’t be found anywhere else. If the idea of radiant r&b that rhythmically teases your ears with a suction cup excites you, Leak 04-13 has plenty to potentially adore.