Review: KAYTRANADA Delivers On “99.9%”

On “99.9%”, Montreal-based producer KAYTRANADA gathers a broad spectre of industry names, to utilize the innovative creativity he has been praised for since he first gained attention.

The result? A colourful and charming blend of electronic, hip-hop, funk, soul and R&B – aligning in a beautiful project, perfect for long summer nights.

The 23-year old has been coming up fast as a key figure in alternative music over the last couple of years, after a massive popularity boost from 2012’s remix of Janet Jackon’s “If” – now approaching 6 million plays on SoundCloud. Utilizing his growth in popularity and record deal at XL recordings, collaborations with industry names like Vic Mensa, Freddie Gibbs, The Internet and Mick Jenkins attracted further attention to the producer, and his upbeat, dreamy, house-hip-hop producing.

Alternative hip-hop and electronic music are in a transitional period, gradually submerging from the underground into the spotlight. After Flying Lotus and Thundercat made contributions to last year’s grammy-winning “To Pimp A Butterfly”, a vast amount of hip-hop heads started exploring the jazzy, soulful and funky- yet electronic world they represented.

Emerging artists like GoldLink, King Krule and Anderson .Paak are all using electronic music in their songs, and a vast range of producers are aligning in a more non-genre-like sound – where a Vince Staples feature comes as natural as a Ariana Grande one. While producers have been crossing genres and experimenting for decades, a new variety of electronic-influenced music is undeniably emerging.

KAYTRANADA’s sound both familiarises and differentiates from other alternative hip-hop and house producers. His intentional off-beat mixing, for instance, found on “99.9%”’s single “Glowed Up”, could resemble Cashmere Cat where other moments is not too different from Disclosure or Jamie XX.”99.9%” is, however, much more than an electronic album.

“TRACK UNO” and the previously released “BUS RIDE” resembles the house and hip-hop vibes 2013’s Kaytra to Do provided, giving old fans the innovative production they have come to expect, while simultaneously introducing new listeners to the sound that initially gained the producer his recognition. They are both standout tracks with their soulful instrumentations, and “BUS RIDE” would blend into a J Dilla or Madlib project with ease.

The jazzy “WEIGHT OFF” featuring Canadian modern jazz quartet BadBadNotGood, resembles something that could appear on both a Flying Lotus and Tame Impala project, in its mix of jazz and neo-psychedelia. It serves as a perfect example of both KAYTRANADA and 99,9%’s diversity, where a transition from modern house to jazz feels as natural as anything. That is significant in this day and age.

“99.9%” relies on its varied features, where everyone from Little Dragon to Vic Mensa makes appearances. The latter’s previously released “DRIVE ME CRAZY” is upbeat, bass-heavy hip-hop, perfect for late club nights. The melodious instrumentation carries the Chicago emcee’s flow perfectly, and further exhibits his talent for making dance-friendly rap music.

Little Brother and The Foreign Exchange’s Phonte assists the groovy disco track “ONE TOO MANY”, with smooth R&B vocals and a hot 16 bars at the end. The Internet’s SYD exhibits some of her most ambitious vocals till this day on “YOU’RE THE ONE”. It is a blend between funk and house, with sweet R&B vocals perfectly mixed on top.

Even early 2000’s R&B wonder Craig David serves “GOT IT GOOD” justice with a familiar, yet soulful and loving vocal performance. It is as fitting to play late night at the dance floor as with your morning coffee. It is, however, one of the album’s least interesting moments.

“99.9%” is impressively ambitious. Instead of relying on safety, KAYTRANADA goes all out – with a vast mix of industry features; some intentional off-beat mixing; dance friendly funk and house music; hard hitting hip-hop and smooth R&B. It is a task difficult to implement, yet he manages to do so without sounding a distorted or confused. “99.9%” is confident, taking the listener on a journey through the various elements of modern electronic music. It is something everyone should experience.

Grade: A-

Highlights: “GLOWED UP”, “BUS RIDE”, “YOU’RE THE ONE”, “WEIGHT OFF”, “LEAVE ME ALONE”

Lowlights: N/A

Similar sounds: Sango, Hudson Mohawke, Thundercat, Anderson .Paak

 

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Jonas Henmo

After growing up in Oslo, Norway, Jonas made the decision of moving to London. He studies journalism and plots to take over the world

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