December 15, 2021
In April 2013, a 16-track collection of songs made its way around the internet. Some were fully formed; others, barely a minute long, felt unfinished. Online fanfare recognized the music for what it was: a stroke of genius from a once-in-a-generation talent. The singular production floated nimbly across genres, underpinned by an infectious pop sensibility. Those 16 tracks appeared on Bandcamp for sale, their cover featuring a photo of the artist “jai paul,” but, within two days, they were taken down.
Jai Paul, the producer behind the music, tweeted, for the first time: “Demos on bandcamp were not uploaded by me, this is not my debut album. Please don’t buy. Statement to follow later. Thanks, Jai.” The statement never arrived. For six years, the music lived on in YouTube playlists, USBs, and hard drives. During that period, the artist remained silent while rumors swirled about the enigmatic British Indian producer from north London. Bloggers wrote stories of Jai Paul attending parties; fans posted stories of him eating dinner at KFC in Rayners Lane, or meeting him on a train, finding him in others’ photos. Yet, his music and his life remained shrouded in mystery.
The longer Jai Paul remained silent, the larger his myth grew. Nearly a decade from those early releases, the 32-year-old artist finds himself immersed in the world of pop stardom without the desire for it. Jai Paul’s story pulled at media and fans’ obsession with consumption and clicks, an insatiable need to know everything about an artist. At what point do we let the music speak for itself vs. let the artist’s story inform our tastes? The subreddit dedicated to the artist, r/JaiPaul, has more conspiracy theories than facts. Many will discuss the impact of Paul’s music, what he’s done in the years since that seminal release. Nearly every post revolves around the same aching question: who is Jai Paul?