By Robert Stephens
In what is his most progressive and consistent album to date, You’re Invited to the Assassination of Patrick Campbell by Paris Jones is a major step forward for Paris Jones (birthname Patrick Campbell). Jones has always been a gifted producer, and many of his early rap songs were merely opportunities to shop his beats for popular artists. His 2009 track “Winter“, one of the most popular songs in his catalog, was a reference track for Kanye West.
“Winter” reflects an artist with an advanced understanding of melody and instrumentation, yet still trying to harness his rap style. In the 2010 album, The Black Hour, we began to see him form his own sound, which is a mixture of influences from Kanye West to James Blake. In December 2013, I sat down with Paris Jones, and he spoke to me at length about his musical growth.
Even on From Paris with Love, it was like ‘Uh, this sounds kinda like Kanye’… You’re still trying to get into what it’s supposed to sound like when you rap on it. You’re still not yourself when you’re rapping. You’re just trying to find what you’re supposed to sound like. I know what Kanye sounds like… but how is Paris Jones supposed to sound on this track? What style is that? How do I get to that? I feel like I didn’t get there until my third project [The Black Hour].
You’re Invited to the Assassination of Patrick Campbell by Paris Jones (YIAPC), which Jones produced and mixed almost entirely himself, expands on the sound that he began to establish on The Black Hour. Yet, YIAPC isn’t simply a linear evolution, it’s also at times an experimental departure from his previous work. For example, Paris sings throughout this new album, skillfully arranging harmonies and vocal distortions, most notably on the tracks “Rebecca, I’ll Take Care of You” and “Ashley Brown, Press 1“.
As a longtime listener, I was excited to hear Jones’ growth as a rapper and composer. Tracks like “Name Dropping” have extended intros and outros in which the song is mixed backwards, giving them a fresh and vibrant sound. “Matrix” reworks the beat of Elie Goulding’s “High for This” (which is itself a cover of The Weeknd). Originally, “High for This” was a druggie anthem, but Jones’ rap verses create a dialogue with Goulding’s chorus and transform the song into a declaration of his drug-free philosophy.
While the musical growth displayed on the album definitely stands out, a closer listen reveals that the project is anchored by a turbulent undercurrent of pain. [pullquote]Everyday is harder, and I fall farther, they trying to get the best of me, but music is my therapy. “Strawberries“[/pullquote] Because Patrick Campbell and Paris Jones are the same person, the album’s title is itself a metaphorical suicide — and we’re invited to observe.
Laboring over this album for nearly two years, and unsure where exactly his career was headed after being passed over by a couple of record labels, it’s no surprise that Jones decided to dig into slightly darker material for YIAPC.
“The Theft“, which samples James Blake’s “CMYK“, follows the attempted suicide skit and feels like a catharsis of sorts. Beginning with Paris explaining his philosophy on forgiveness and reconciliation, we get a glimpse into the frustrations that have motivated this album. Originally from Los Angeles, Jones’ career has yet to take off in his hometown, a topic which he explores at other points in the album (particularly the song “Okay“). On “The Theft“ he sings, “California, why don’t you learn to love me yea. I ask you why.” . Throughout the song you can hear him releasing that burden, and positioning himself to move forward with his life and music.
Paris Jones is a brilliant musician, and a thoughtful person trying to figure out how to balance career ambition with his personal convictions. There’s more to his story, and as an artist, he is just beginning to scratch the surface. I look forward to hearing more from him in 2014.