Music News

Head Spins: DJ Billy Paul

Dj Billy Paul 2.jpg
On any given Thursday evening at the Palms Hotel on South Beach, you'll find an intimate confab of hipsters swaying to a decidedly worldly beat. The party's called Sip and Spa, and, as the name implies, it's as heavy on the cocktails as it is on the massage. Actually, there may be even more imbibing than out-and-out spa works. But hey, a long, tall drink can be just as relaxing as any ol' mud bath.

The thing about it is, Sip and Spa swings in a way the Strip doesn't often swing -- and that is with a hush instead of a rush, a mellowness rather than a rabid madness. It's the feel one might find in, say, a reflecting pool, rather than the many-sided mirrors to which we've all become accustomed. And behind it all are the sounds thrown down by DJ Billy Paul.

Born in Jamaica, Paul was raised in Bath and London, England, then taken to Toronto, and finally landed in Miami, where he went straight from Hialeah-Miami Lakes High to the University of Miami. As such, Billy Paul is unquestionably a man of the world. In fact, his list of hometowns only begins to hint at the globe-trotting days he's lived through, which have taken him through Berlin and Lausanne, and on tour throughout Asia as a sideman to Chayanne and Shakira. So as you might suspect, Paul has a playlist -- and a playfulness -- which perfectly befits his worldly upbringing.

Add the fact that Paul was schooled as a musician and continues to make music-making a very large part of his life, and it's clear that there are plenty of good reasons why his beats have such beatitude. There's his Reigning Sky studio on Venetian Isle, where he's already released his own Miami Beach Lounge LP. And there's his keyboard work with noted house producer Robbie Rivera, which got him into spinning in the first place. So you might say Paul's place remains on the creative side of sound.

And it's just that creativity which can be heard at the Palms, as he builds from a quiet storm of downtempo delicacies to a more upbeat mix rivaling the likes of Bob Sinclar. And it can be further heard over at the newish Balans on Brickell, each and every weekend, when Paul breaks from the earthier elements in his spinning and takes on a more electro feel. Think David Guetta, or perhaps the German DJ Klass, and you'll get the idea.

But even on Brickell, Paul has the capacity to transform an evening into a whole 'nother place and time. Call it uplift, call it know-how, call it the mark of a man who's seen things far and above even these fabled shores; just call it. And then call yourself lucky to have been there for the world-wild ride.

DJ Billy Paul's Current Top Five:

1. "That's Not My Name," the Ting Tings
2. "The Fame," Lady Ga Ga
3. "World Hold On," Bob Sinclair
4. "Love and Dance Ritual," Cerrone vs. Little Louie Vega
5. "The Cha Cha," Alex Barattini

Thursdays from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Palms Hotel and Spa, Miami Beach. Fridays and Saturdays at Balans Brickell, Miami.

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John Hood