XL Recordings

KAYTRANADA

99.9%

FINAL GRADE

by KV

Hip-hop and EDM have had a turbulent relationship since their beginnings, though the genres aren’t really so different. Their similarities have coaxed many artists to produce compounds of the two, with many collaborations being regrettable (see: David Guetta and Flo Rida’s "Club Can’t Handle Me"). However, the grainy funk loops, vinyl crackles and EQing that current hip-hop features leaves many craving its organic matter and grit.

Though, what has seldom happened in any meaningful way is for a hip-hop producer to have artfully tapped into house, blending the two worlds in a credible, original way.

Canada’s KAYTRANADA seems to be that artist, and — accordingly — the hype around him has been huge.

What if J Dilla had rapped over house music? That’s KAYTRANADA’s shtick, and he wears it well. His debut album, 99.9%, lands on the UK label XL Recordings — a label that has recently returned to the dance beats on which they first earned their reputation. Loaded with the kind of guest rap slots you’d expect from the hippest 2016 hip-hop record, 99.9% features Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, Odd Future/The Internet’s Syd the Kid, and Craig David. The album may have its share of rap tempo beats and concessions to trap, but what’s truly exciting is how KAYTRANADA switches up the pace from track to track.

"Track Uno" is a wicked piece made up of twilight boogie loops and electroid bass, which resembles something you’d expect from Leon Vynehall or Theo Parrish more than an artist associated with rap. "Bus Ride," featuring drummer Karriem Riggins, is a contemplative, string-laden trip-hop piece, loaded with beats that suddenly catapult into double time drum beats & bass flourishes. "One Too Many" (with Little Brother’s Phonte) is a loose, synthy disco cut, with vocals that flit between silky R&B and raw rap flows, while “Breakdance Lesson No.1” is all '80s funk guitar licks and arpeggiated synth details – it’s almost a full-on broken beat/disco fusion track. "You’re the One," though, is the perfect mix of funked-up house and modern R&B vibes; its played-in, unquantized synth bass and loose swing makes perfect sense with Syd’s honeyed vocals.

 

Even KAYTRANADA’s straight up rap tracks are unconventional, such as the loping trap beat of "Drive Me Crazy." Its cascading, ethereal synth loop in the backdrop sounds suspiciously like Origin Unknown’s hardcore/jungle classic "Valley of the Shadows" — something that smacks of deliberate intertextual reference, demonstrative of the producer’s dance culture knowledge and attachment.

99.9% is a brilliant, well-realized combination of styles, with more than its fair share of memorable and addictive songs.

Song You Need To Hear: "GLOWED UP"