Having spent the last six years flirting with greatness on Soundcloud and as a DJ in several underground venues (see his 2013 Montreal Boiler Room set for reference), Kaytranada’s 99.9% is the breakout album that we have been longing for.
Haitian born and Canadian raised, Kaytranada (Louis Kevin Celestin) first gained fame for his 2012 reworking of Janet Jackson’s ‘If’, inspiring a string of production credits for a variety of artists from Chicago rapper Vic Mensa to UK house heroine Katy B. However, with this fifteen-track collection, Kay has finally transcended from being the invisible figure behind the beats to the instrumental frontman; for both the worlds of hip-hop and dance music, this has proved to be an excellent transformation.
“As far as debuts go, it’s not half bad”
Adopting a series of complex rhythms that expertly intertwine synthetic keystrokes with Caribbean inspired drumbeats, Kaytranada’s signature style is clearly established from the outset. Combining the laidback and melodic stylings of hip-hop with the urgency and excitement of dancehall, he manages to craft a uniquely downbeat and chilled vibe that will simultaneously inspire even the most reserved clubbers to break into a stylish two-step. The fourth track on the album TOGETHER, featuring electronic duo Aluna George and American rapper Goldlink, perfectly encapsulates this disjointed yet captivating style. Overlaying fast guitar chords, a repetitive beat, and a short and sharp rap verse sandwiched between an infectious hook, it provides a sound for everyone to enjoy.
Other notable tracks include GLOWED UP, a synth inspired piece featuring Anderson Paak that dazzles as it combines futuristic chords with a beat that masterfully lands a second out of time. The resurgence of Craig David is exceptionally utilised by the euphoric GOT IT GOOD, his soothing tones complimenting the Eastern inspired backing. Containing no less than 13 featuring artists, it is this seamless weaving of vocals into each song, almost becoming lost as part of the instrumental, which truly showcase Kaytranada’s extraordinary skill as a producer.
However, on his solo tracks the lack of an outside presence appear to have provided him with a bit too much artistic licence. The odd collision of Latin jazz inspired guitar strokes with the typical electronic chords and drum beats on LITE SPOTS is almost overwhelming. Unsure of whether it is attempting to inspire a spontaneous Samba festival or make an appearance at an underground rave, its hectic and irregular style serves to baffle rather than bewitch. Luckily this proves to be the exception rather than the rule on an otherwise brilliant album.
As a result, listening to 99.9% inspires a roller coaster of emotions. Invoking a sense of nostalgia with a throwback to nineties hip-hop beats, Kaytranada skilfully brings his style into the modern day by synthesising this with a modern electro beat. Though threatening to become monotonous at times, subtle shifts in tempo and style help to keep it on track throughout. The result is an album that isn’t perfect, although rather than to demean the album, its imperfections are often what adds to its enjoyment. As far as debuts go, it’s not half bad.
Image: XL 2016