Kaytranada, real name Louis Kevin Celestin, wants to break down the proverbial stone wall between the dancefloor and the streets. Much in the same way The Neptunes transcended those genres through sheer computer sorcery in the noughties, there is a growing buzz about Celestin’s affinity for programmed beats that merge together the glossiness of house with the heart of hip-hop. With ’99.9%’, the debut LP from the Montreal-raised producer, Celestin successfully coheres his sound, amplifying guest appearances whilst retaining a consistent imprint throughout. Moving with capable ease between the synthetic and organic, Kaytranada’s debut is the type of record that comes along once every so often that packs vintage goodness with future promise concurrently.
Spearheaded by 2012’s reworking of Janet Jackson’s ‘If’, transforming the rock-infused original into a space-aged hybrid, Kaytranada’s monogram-like chords and sleepy synthesisers featured again on The Internet collaboration ‘Girl’ and Katy B’s ‘Honey’, his soundscape one that adheres to a glossy sort of exuberance. It manifests on ’99.9%’, Kaytranada finding home in the languid on ‘Weight Off’, or the euphoric high on the more pop-leaning ‘Got It Good’ featuring Craig David. Yet you’d be negligent in thinking the Montreal producer rests on these laurels alone.
’99.9%’ leans on the stylings and strata of hip-hop, Kaytranada channelling them in ways that the Soundcloud generation can access. ‘Bus Ride’ featuring jazz percussionist Karriem Riggins, is a smooth piece of chill-hop, featuring a stirring string section, invoking a summer drive through a neon metropolis. It’s a nostalgic jam managing the tricky feat of re-treading black music through the ages whilst weaving a new thread for a generation of impressionable listeners. ‘Drive Me Crazy’ featuring brilliantly brash verses you’d expect from the Kanye-anointed Vic Mensa is Kaytranada’s version of an urban stoner anthem, driven by tough, synthetic drums, but heightened into something a little more spectral through decadent cascading synths, and choral chants. Nothing on this LP is ever truly clear cut, it spans funk, soul and even disco, featuring refrains catalysed by tempo shifts, Kaytranada at his artisanal best on ‘Track Uno’, a shimmery offering that plays like a confirmation of Kaytranada’s transition from DIY-producer to artiste.
It takes someone assured in his own prowess as a DJ and collaborator to create the requisite space for guest artists to shine, the production on ’99.9%’ in a congruent position of augmenting the vocalist or rapper. It’s a record stacked with an adeptness of touch from a production standpoint, a modern tapestry that weaves in and out of genres defined by black artists of past. For all we know Kaytranada could grow in stature the way The Neptunes did if ‘99.9%’ is anything to go by, even if he is more comfortable residing in the shadows.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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