When English songwriter and record producer Jai Paul’s music was illegally uploaded to Bandcamp in 2013, he lost authorship and control over projects that he wasn’t ready to release. His music floated onto the internet, spawning a life of its own that Paul couldn’t control. Paul officially released Leak 4-13 (Bait Ones), an album composed of the same songs published without his permission years ago, on June 1. With the album, the musician takes back the reins of his work, which remains one of the most powerful and anticipated musical projects of the decade.
In 2013, after the tracks were published without Paul’s permission, his unfinished projects came under the scrutiny of the public and the press. Paul took a break from music and shunned any publicity requests. Paul’s fans have remained loyal, however, and in 2019, they rejoiced as Paul dropped two new singles along with the eventual release of the leak as an official album.
The rerelease shows that Paul is out to prove that the hype is real, with so many of the tracks featuring the punch and variety that he is known for. “BTSTU (Demo),” the last track on the album, illustrates the reason that fans were willing to wait so long. When the musician first released the song in 2011, it took the music world by storm. In the song, his soft and sensual singing voice suddenly erupts into a beautifully chaotic downpour of electrifying bass. Off of the strength of this single demo, Paul was signed to XL Recordings and named one of the most exciting artists to look out for; it seemed his success was cemented.
Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) beautifully represents the formation of Paul’s innovative vocal and technical prowess. Paul’s sound is like that of the kings of pop of the ‘80s (think Prince or Michael Jackson) with its nonstop complexity and incredible energy. His discography is unique in that each song is so completely original — his work is impossible to pin down stylistically — but every number retains the same vibrant energy.
“Str8 Outta Mumbai,” one of the album’s opening songs, is incredible, with bombastic booming 808s and an instantly catchy hook. On it, the samples that Paul collects clash and bang against the beat, a polyrhythmic sequence that’s intuitively moving. Halfway through the song, a sample of Vani Jairam’s “Bala Main Bairagan Hoongi” takes center stage, creating an almost entirely different song. While other artists may sit on their laurels and be content with maintaining the same structure in each of their pieces, Paul is constantly tweaking and improving each of his songs. In an era in which studio albums are churned out every year, this dedication feels touching and personal.
“Zion Wolf Theme (Unfinished)” is mournful and dark, yet it remains an absolute banger. Conga drums and horns create a moombahton beat that contrasts sharply with the lyrics: “In the company of wolves / Will I make it through the night? / If I stay with you, I might.” Here, Paul’s vocals are striving to connect, like a howl that can’t get a response.
The unfinished tracks on the album stand as a testament to both what could have been and what we have to look forward to in the future. Most of the songs on this album are unfinished, yet the vibrancy is there — and the immediate success of this official release speaks to a popular desire for anything that Paul makes. “Good Time” or “Baby Beat (Unfinished)” feel fully fleshed out in quality, even if they leave you begging for more.
What’s indisputable now is that Paul is here to take back control. His decision to upload these tracks officially speaks to a level of maturity and acceptance of the unfortunate events that mired his early career. With comparisons to Prince and D’Angelo, Paul has a lot to measure up to. But by growing beyond events of the past, Paul looks to have an exciting future ahead.