After making his live debut at this month's Coachella, Jai Paul came to New York and played to sold-out crowds at Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens and Brooklyn Steel in Williamsburg. His first-ever Brooklyn appearance was well worth the wait.
Ten years ago, Jai Paul's leaked demos began to build a hype around the musician that for a decade seemed more and more like a fantasy than something that would ever turn into more than a bunch of anonymously uploaded files. Following his own posting of demos for a couple of tracks, Jai Paul evaded the public eye until his debut collection of songs was hosted on Bandcamp, apparently without permission. The tracks built a cult-like status for the electro-pop visionary who seemed to be able to channel the rocking funk flair of Prince, complete with sultry vibes, and vocals that were smooth as silk. In the time he fit right in with another rather mysterious enigmas like the mixtape-era Weeknd and, well, Frank Ocean. Creating some of the most compelling futuristic R&B of the time, the instant hits never culminated in appearances and aside from the stellar two-sided single "Do You Love Her Now" / "He," we barely heard from the elusive man behind these incendiary tunes. Nearly ten years to the day since the leaked demos (which the artist did officially release on his on in 2019), the electro-pop vanguard made his live debut at one of the world's biggest festivals making his performance at Brooklyn Steel only his fourth ever live appearance. The decade-long wait for one of the most hyped producers and musicians of the era arrived and fulfilled the fantasies fans had been dreaming of ever since first hearing him years ago. Still incredibly shy, Paul barely spoke to the crowd and after arriving thirty minutes past his posted start time his awe-inspiring set happened in a flash, his limited material living up to the highly-anticipated build-up, before vanishing nearly as quickly as it came. Standing centerstage with a lone microphone stand, Jai entered to thunderous applause from the anxious crowd who were ready to fully absorb whatever he was ready to dish out. Opening with Big Boi's "Higher Res" only continued to elongate the restrained energy in the room and as soon as he hit into "He," the place began to full to his groove and cheer for his silky smooth to croon with undeniable talent. His backing band was sharp and witnessing these monumental tracks come to life with such power and precision was spectacular. His vision clearly executed and proving that he's not just an ambitious studio wiz, but rather someone who can translate their magic wonderfully to the stage. Segueing into his booming cover of Jennifer Paige's hit "Crush," the crowd started to really get into the set and unleash the euphoria that had been building up inside waiting to hear these songs in a huge room played to sonic perfection. Thick R&B bass and guitar melded with Paul's singular voice, giving his artistry a prominent display of genius and showcasing his generational talent transcends to a live setting as well. Despite the brevity of the set, Paul curated the set-list to near perfection and brought the night to a close with a growing confidence that translated into an epic affair. "Do You Love Her Now" was magnetic, the rippling effects overlaying the crowd with pure emotions and serene vulnerability. The churning guitar riff acting as the perfect balance to Jai's surreal vocals making for some of the finest moments of R&B of the last decade. "Jasmine" brought thundering bass and started to make the crowd come alive, a fiery passion beginning to burn and culminating with the final one-two punch of "BTSTU" and "Str8 Outta Mumbai" both of which melted the house down with unbridled energy from the crowd, everyone releasing what's been stored up for years and finally allowing it to flow with the utmost joy in a room of others who'd been waiting just as long to share the same experience.
01 "Higher Res" (Big Boi cover)
03 "Crush" (Jennifer Paige cover)
05 "So Long"
07 "All Night"
08 "Zion Wolf Theme"
09 "Good Time"
11 "Do You Love Her Now"
14 "Str8 Outta Mumbai"