2019 has been a monumental year for London based electronic, R&B and pop prodigy, Jai Paul. His release of the double B side ‘Do You Love Her Now / He’ alongside a re-released and minimally reproduced version of his 2013 leaked album, now dubbed “04-13 Leak (Bait Ones)” marks a significant moment in his career thus far. Heavily influenced by musical pioneers Prince, Michael Jackson, D’Angelo and J Dilla, Paul’s return is hugely momentous.
His seven-year hiatus music was triggered by the career-stalling leak of Paul’s own unfinished work at a critical point in his career. Newly signed to XL Recordings, Paul released the auspicious track ‘BTSTU (Edit)’ in 2011, which was swiftly sampled by Drake and Beyonce. In 2012, he released ‘jasmine (demo)’: a game changing futuristic blend of electronic, pop, soul, funk and R&B. Paul seamlessly fused his vocals with a bass driven instrumental to produce a unique sound that remains forward thinking, seven years on. However, in April 2013, a collection of Paul’s demos was stolen and leaked, hence Paul’s disappearance from the industry. Whilst a plethora of other artists have drawn from Paul’s sound including the likes of NAO, Mura Masa, KAYTRANADA, Anderson .Paak, Paul’s own work remains authentic and unmatched.
In an open letter to fans, Paul revealed that with the help of therapy he has finally come to a place of acceptance over the leak, and to a position where he feels comfortable returning to the industry. Notably, he highlighted the significance of the Paul Institute in offering him an outlet of musical creativity. The Institute was set up by Jai, alongside his Ivor Novello award winning brother A. K. Paul (who has produced for Miguel), and Muz Azar in an attempt to produce and nurture musical talent.
A.K. Paul released his first, electrifying, ‘blade-runner pop’ single ‘Landcrusin’’ in 2016 through the Institute. A year later, the Institute released two new singles from relatively unknown artists Fabiana Palladino (the daughter of famous bassist Pino Palladino) and Ruthven. Palladino’s debut offering for the institute was a Berlin-esc 80’s synth influenced love ballad dubbed: ‘Mystery’. The song is hauntingly beautiful: assisted by the production of by Jai Paul, coupled with the presence of his ethereal falsetto in the song’s outro. This was the first appearance of Paul in five years. Ruthven’s track on the other hand is a funk inspired jam featuring the guitar work of A. K. on ‘Evil’.
In the summer of 2018, the Institute announced the release of a further four singles, from Palladino and Ruthven respectively, and two from newly signed members under the names of HIRA and REINEN. Ruthven’s ‘Hypothalamus’ is one of the most audacious tracks of the past few years: he draws heavily upon Prince in vocal delivery and production. The song builds and builds to an outrageous climax, delivered by a pulsating guitar solo by A. K. once again. Palladino’s second single ‘Shimmer’ is a feminist ballad that demands respect from those who doubt her. Her style once again draws upon 80’s pop with clear inspirations drawn from the work of Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins, among others.
The Institute offers new artists a platform to thrive creatively, without the pressures of a conventional music label. The project offers an expansion of the distinct Paul sound and ethos: producing a timeless vision of pop music, one that is derivative of the past, but primarily, one that is genre-bending, futuristic and original. The Institute performed in their first live shows in London in July. Paul and co. were ‘Laylow’’s residents for the month: a fittingly low key and intimate venue for the group typified by subtle romanticism. New music from each Institute member was performed, perhaps hinting at future releases. Fans of the Paul brothers are used to waiting, it’s part of the appeal. In a digital era, where fans expect instant access to content, the Paul’s slow-burn approach to content release should be admired. Should it take two months, or two years, the potential shown by all involved in the Institute is exciting enough to satisfy. As for Jai Paul himself, his return is a welcome one, and the opportunity to capitalise on his scintillating potential remains. Paul, being the perfectionist that he is, will take time, but we’ll be waiting when he’s ready.
Image: Resident Advisor