Spotlight #9: DJ PayPal

by Rob Scott

DJ PayPal’s persona, or lack thereof, is as current and relevant to today’s cyber-capitalist world as can be. With his ironic pseudonym and releases titled Buy Now and Sold Out, he constructs a cutting parody of today’s music industry’s infatuation with money and fame. The cover artwork for Sold Out displays his name in sparkling golden letters on a garishly coloured billboard with more than a touch of sarcasm. However, he juxtaposes this with a near-anonymous public persona, but calculated internet presence; rarely doing interviews, and rarely performing without his face concealed by a black t-shirt draped over his head, allegedly due to potential visa issues.

This playfulness, and embracement of contradictions translates seamlessly to his music. The baseline genre of all his output is footwork, so-called because of the associated dance style, a house genre originating from Chicago characterised by ridiculously uptempo syncopated snare beats and pitch-shifted vocal samples. But PayPal branches out to incorporate the pulsing repetition of minimalism (see the title track of Sold Out), jazz (Awakening), and even South American carnival music (Slim Track). PayPal often uses very familiar, almost cliché, glossy electronic sounds, that sound like they could be from a retro video game, or perhaps a glamarous hotel lobby. But by playing and cutting and chopping with them (with tongue firmly in cheek), he pokes fun at the context they arise from. Take the track Ahhhhhhh from his double EP Sold Out. PayPal samples some flamboyantly camp jazz piano and horns, lays over pitch-shifted vocal samples singing the songs title, but then lays over swirling scatter gun snare beats and cuts and screws the samples into a jittering unpredictable headtrip. It’s a hyper-kitsch Gatsby party, but instead of champagne and cocktails there’s methamphetamine and Red Bull.

Last year, DJ PayPal randomly dropped footwork remixes of 30 (!?) Drake songs — more than three times as many songs on his debut album. You could tell it was kind of a joke; knowingly ridiculous. But it was also quite brilliant. DJ PayPal makes fun of the world, parodying its mundanity and superficiality, but in doing so, makes it a little more fun.

If you like this try: DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, Traxman