“Am I tripping?” a chipmunked voice asks on electronic artist Jai Wolf’s (pronounced with a hard “i” sound) remix of Mocki’s “Weekend” before a breakdown full of sunny chords and psychedelic arpeggios. Anyone who found themselves immersed in Jai’s amped-up synths in the Hub on Sunday had to admit the music put them in some kind of high.
New York City native Sajeeb Saha began releasing music under the moniker Jai Wolf in 2014 after three years of using the name No Animals Allowed. His career has progressed from releasing classic garage dubstep on SoundCloud to being signed on Skrillex’s record label OWSLA to currently headlining his own tour.
Despite his dubstep/electronic background and connections, Jai Wolf’s musical versatility most distinguishes him from the seemingly infinite slew of moderately famous electronic artists. Stereotypical dubstep/electronic build-ups, drops, thumping rhythms and club beats on the surface of many songs obscure subtler but frequently used hip-hop percussion. Porter Robinson and Odessa comfortably serve as influences next to Kanye — although who isn’t influenced by Kanye’s genius these days?
Jai Wolf’s perspective on remixes further adds to his unique appeal. He approaches them with the mindset of, “If I were to write this song, how would I write it?” Rather than pursue a banger or a dance track, he seeks to express independent emotions in his music, “to write music people can really feel.” He often solely keeps the vocals from an original song, rewriting the underlying production totally from scratch to create an original sounding mix.
This perspective on crafting remixes shows in Jai Wolf’s live performance. He plays other artists’ music almost as much as his own; hype songs like Drake/Future’s “Big Rings,” pop songs like The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” (with some infused EDM) and Jai Wolf’s “original” remixes form a pleasantly diverse listening experience. Even his remixes receive a bit of remixing when played live, making for an in-concert experience that is distinctly different than hearing Jai Wolf played at a party.
Everyone dressed in regular party attire for the concert. The lack of wolf shirts disappointed me more than any other element of the performance. However, at moments Jai Wolf’s relative inexperience showed. Higher pitches occasionally went from loud to ear-piercing, while overzealous base lines sometimes caused distortions. These sorts of problems were few and far between over the hour-plus set and could be issues with the speakers or The Hub’s acoustics rather than Jai Wolf himself.
Such issues will evaporate as he achieves greater fame and success and has time to hone his skills. Like most electronic DJs, he performed alone on stage with a mixer and light show. His dancing and enthusiasm fed into the crowd’s energy and formed the basis of his stage presence. Throughout the performance he had little to say to the crowd, but rather let his music speak for itself.
Jai Wolf may use different vocals to speak over his music than his typical female ones. When I interviewed him before the show, he said, “I love rap music, so I would love to do some rap remixes or have an original where someone is rapping over it.” He also plans to release more totally original work in the future, with an album coming out sometime in the next few years.
So while Jai Wolf’s biggest virtue as a performer now is the variety of music he plays, in the future he may keep shows interesting with the variety of influences he is able to draw upon to create a diverse group of original tracks for performance. No matter what he does, look forward to seeing Jai Wolf please crowds with a broad musical palate and upbeat energy.