REVIEW: KAYTRANADA EMERGES VICTORIOUS IN DEBUT ALBUM '99.9%'
Kaytranada’s long-awaited 99.9% is a coming-of-age debut album that exhibits the Montrealer producer’s multi-genre, nostalgic flair across 15-tracks, featuring collabs from the likes of Anderson Paak and Little Dragon.
At 23-years-old, Kaytranada has been dropping beats in his bedroom since he was fourteen. No stranger to the art of DJing and remixing, he gained traction as a producer following his remix of Janet Jackson’s If, which allowed him to book countless shows and amass an online following of 437,000 on SoundCloud.
Following a period of burnout, the DIY multitasker has battled his own insecurities with his sexuality as well as his frustration and indecision towards his musical aspirations, which is reflected in the apt album title. And he’s come out as a victor, with a highly polished and cohesive debut work that borrows familiar elements from disco, soul, hip-hop and R&B, only to mould them into something entirely new. Describing his LP as “abstract-feeling” and “uptempo, neo-soul,” Kaytranada said he wanted to “make it as funky as possible.”
That is exactly what he does. 99.9% only demonstrates a flash of Kaytranada’s brilliance with his eclectic and vibrant sound, an auditory experiment that tells us he’s not afraid of blending genres and traversing the realms of old school and contemporary.
His 15-tracks are arranged in such a way that they are meant to be heard in order, with smooth, arresting transitions between each song. The first, Track Uno, is reminiscent of vaporwave and elevator funk with its pulsing beat. Early on, we can already expect eccentric arrangements and a song composition that recalls the movements of sonatas, beginning with an introductory tempo with a shift into the closing finale.
Got It Good is where the album picks up. Craig Davis’ grainy voice melds to the layered soundscape, resulting in a catchy tune that borrows from R&B and electronica. In Together, disco funk marries Aluna George’s honeyed voice, “We don’t have to fight no more… We just have to walk through that door together,” with GoldLink’s defiant rap, “And daddy ain’t round enough/Watching my baby grow up alone in her momma’s house/You’re too busy writing these rhymes/I never lie in the rhymes,” which brings an edge to the song. Drive Me Crazy exhibits Vic Mensa’s mad flow against the backdrop of hard-hitting bass and a swinging beat, culminating in a muffled electric guitar riff melding with the euphonious lyrics.
There’s something about Kaytranda’s tracks that are so energetic. One Too Many with Phonte is your ‘night about in town’ anthem, combining textured synth and trippy sound. Phonte may have had one too many, but we can’t get enough of 99.9%.
Although some tracks are underdeveloped and a bit like filler (Despite the Weather and Breakdance Lesson N.1) and Lite Spots, despite being artistic, is an earsore, tracks like Glowed Up with Anderson Paak sustain the album whilst breaching musical conventions and achieving the art of the bass drop.
You’re the One with SYD’s breathy delivery is another irresistible track that delves into toxic love. River Tiber’s euphoric voice coalesces into the shuffling beat of Vivid Dreams with poetic justice. Said beat reemerges in another highlight, Leave Me Alone, a grooving track that ricochets against Shay Lia’s silky vocals, producing Kaytranada’s signature nostalgic yet contemporary sound. Finally, Bullets embodies Kaytranda’s journey as an artist, alluding to a personal and political crusade as Little Dragon sings, “Sun don’t shine/And we all know why/Bullets keep flying/So many shooting/ In the darkest times.”
Sounds synthesise and skirmish in 99.9%, which boasts mellow and hard-hitting tracks all at once. Bringing together eras new and old, Kaytranada takes what is familiar to us and gives it a new spin, producing a debut album that is as much about experimentation as it is about his defiance and search for identity.
Ultimately, Kaytranada’s 99.9% lives up to its name. And that can be said for few artists.
Listen to the album below: