It only took a month and change for reports that Drake was holding on to a Beyoncé collaboration to bring to fruition a leak called "Can I" that sounded a lot like the real deal. But there was one thing: two versions of the song in circulation, one with a vacant last verse and a second that featured a completely unknown singer named Sal Houdini filling up that space.
Soon after the song hit the internet, Houdini posted a flustered message to Instagram. "I didn't mean to do this it was just for fun," he wrote, imploring anyone who came across a the leak to report it.
Reached by phone on Friday afternoon, a man who claimed to be the Sal Houdini featured insisted that he did not leak either version of the song. "This whole mess that's going on, people saying that I leaked it—I didn't do that," he laughed, adding that he doesn't know who did.
An accounting student from New York whose internet presence is nothing out of the ordinary—besides the standard Instagram and Facebook profiles, a Google search turned up a handful of Kanye To The message board comments, mostly requesting rare OVO gear and promoting his various DIY Drake collabs and other bedroom recordings—Houdini said he came across the leak on YouTube, and within two hours, he had added his vocals, tweaked the end, and sent it via email to a three of his close and IRL friends. "Right after I sent it to them, I specifically told them, please whatever you do, keep it to yourself, because the full version is not out yet and if this ended up leaking, it's not going to be good," he said. "They promised and everything. But five minutes later, it's on the internet."
Despite his pleading Instagram, Houdini's take of the song was picked up by a number of music blogs blogs (The Fader included) and streamed more than 42,000 times. Houdini credits this to his version sounding more complete. "Maybe because I filled those spaces, switched up the beat a little and the flow of the song, and ended with a sample of Drake. Which I guess made people assume it was the official version," he said.
Houdini has not heard from Drake or Beyoncé's camps, but claims to have gotten a meeting with an A&R from a major label off the leak. "After what happened with this week," he said, "I'm going to have to take [music] seriously now." (The FADER has reached out to the label to confirm this, and is awaiting comment.) And he's still holding out hope that his unofficial version might become official: "It's not the way I wanted to get approached—it's a leak, and as an artist I don't appreciate leaks, I'll tell you that—but if it's going to get this kind of buzz, it's everywhere right now, you might as well work with the person. That would be the smartest move right now for Drake."