Kaytranada
99.9%


4.2
excellent

Review

by Will EMERITUS
May 12th, 2016 | 119 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Looking back, grounded in the present

“You are known by the company you keep”; never has this saying been less true than it has been with Kaytranada. Louis Kevin Celestin appears in interviews and features as a quiet, shy man, one whose struggles with depression and his own sexuality (he came out publicly as gay in a feature for The Fader last month) have kept him in a solitary place for years. His music, on the other hand, has seen its most significant support (until his signing with XL Recordings) on fist-pumping dudebro havens like Majestic Casual and the “future bass” corner of SoundCloud. Celestin, after all, made a name for himself among the first wave of SoundCloud superstars like Lido and ODESZA with his booty-shakin’ flips of everyone from Janet Jackson to Flume. Until recently, he’s been best known for blunted, percussive house reimaginings of classic tracks, and sometime last year he decided that reputation needed to change. “They were calling me a house producer, but that’s not me,” he says in the Fader piece. “I make all kinds of beats.”

99.9%, in this sense, is a fulfilment of the promise of “all kinds of beats.” Whereas Kaytranada’s earlier work stays pretty comfortably within the confines of bumpin’, poppy deep house a la Disclosure or AlunaGeorge, his new album is more a synthesis of hip-hop excellence than anything else. There’s the obvious - killer (if more traditional) beats underlying verses from Vic Mensa and Anderson .Paak, tracks titles like “Breakdance Lesson N. 1” - but pretty much everything, from the album’s funk to its gospel, is tinted with an undeniably hip-hop ethos. “Bus Ride,” despite being overtly jazz (especially thanks to an excellent drum performance by jazz musician Karriem Riggins), is a consummate head-nodder, as much indebted to Madlib as it is to Nat King Cole. Closer “Bullets” weaves a willowy house structure with chunky breaks and plucky, forceful bass, much looser and funkier than much of its traditionally Whiter influence.

I don’t choose these comparative artists and sounds without reason: Celestin, from his interviews, is very conscious about the racial associations of his music. His brother has argued, in reference to Kay’s music, that “every EDM producer is white, or it’s dominated by the white population,” and there’s no question that Kaytranada has been affected by that Whiteness. A large proportion of those associated with his music - fellow uploadees of various popular YouTube music-promo channels, popular SoundCloud producers often mentioned in the same breath as him (even I’m not immune to this, as you can see above), even XL co-stars like Adele and Mumdance - are, indeed, White, and it seems relatively clear that the producer is making an effort to establish himself as a proudly Black artist rooted in Haitian and Black American culture.

Interestingly, Kaytranada’s vision of the Black culture that comes to fruition on 99.9% is less a celebration of the modern iteration of the culture and more a love letter to the hip-hop world of yore. It’s not a snapshot of the stuff coming out today (as Kay put it, record execs “want that 808, [..] I still put 808 on my shit, but it’s just a different kind of 808.”) as much as it is a reflection of the glory days of a decade or four ago. The thing is, 99.9% wears its influences on its sleeve - listen to “Lite Spots” and try to tell me you can’t hear any Dilla - and that’s what makes it such a cutting-edge release. The internet has been fairly kind to hip-hop, especially as of the past several years, and part of what makes it such a special tool is the obsessive consumption it allows. It’s always been a referential genre - it’s literally founded on sampling, after all - and it’s been particularly strong recently because, as more great music from present and past is discovered and rediscovered, that new material becomes a foundation for newer iterations and interpretations of its core sound.

[99.9%], then, is a quintessentially modern record not in terms of its sound in isolation (if you’re looking for sloppy, trappy beats a la Future or Young Thug, I’m sure you haven’t yet heard at least one of their dozens of mixtapes) but in terms of its attitude. It’s a vintage hip-hop-influenced sound, but it’s so many different shades of that vintage that it’s a record that is quintessentially 2016. It’s buffeted by ‘70s breaking and early ‘00s weed-laced beats and the post-SoundCloud inundations into the markets Kaytranada once found himself in, and it places all these disparate and conflicting ideas together into a neat package. It’s loudly Black both in terms of its values and its response to the Whiteness of its field, and it’s rooted in hip-hop culture in so many different ways that it’s frankly incredible that everything ends up sounding coherent and tight. 99.9% is an assertion of identity and a rejection of identity and a whole lot of other things all at once, and provides some of the most incredible music of the year all the same.




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Comments:Add a Comment 
Brostep
Emeritus
May 11th 2016


4272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Fader interview: http://www.thefader.com/2016/04/05/kaytranada-album-interview-99-percent

"Glowed Up": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaWesK-nWts

"Lite Spots": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZnou4zthz4

back again, hi all. listen to this album please

Keyblade
May 11th 2016


24051 Comments


damn u got them diamonds all up in here like this is a 2006 track by track review

Brostep
Emeritus
May 11th 2016


4272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

damn you clicked literally 30 seconds before i edited them all out lol



basically I have my GDocs autocorrect the short hyphen ("-") to an em-dash but the review engine is stupid and doesn't recognize the em-dash so I always forget and have to change it once it's published

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 11th 2016


11555 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

so good live too, excited to hear this

RadicalEd
May 12th 2016


8116 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cool review, just checked this out 2-3 days ago and the production is stellar, a few of the performances on the mic are a bit underwhelming, but overall this is really good.

Brostep
Emeritus
May 12th 2016


4272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

honestly I really dig the "big-name" features here. like I'm not usually Mensa's biggest proponent but he really works over that fuckin Drive Me Crazy beat

RadicalEd
May 12th 2016


8116 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Tbh Drive Me Crazy is the song where the feature bugs me the most. Because the beat is amazing but Mensa is really meh. Phonte and Craig David are really good though.

Hurricanslash
May 12th 2016


1756 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Idunno, stuffs okay.

CaliggyJack
May 12th 2016


1616 Comments


"dudebros"

lol

StrangerofSorts
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2016


2897 Comments


only heard Bus Ride from this, but it's a banger - I'll get round to checking the rest.

StrangerofSorts
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2016


2897 Comments


reading this review to procrastinate from the metaphysics of race and black existentialism seems counterproductive. I wanted release, not more examples.

Brostep
Emeritus
May 12th 2016


4272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Can you tell I just got done with a final project for my Race in America class?

Calc
Contributing Reviewer
May 12th 2016


15416 Comments


diggin the shit outta this man

Digging: Stolas - Stolas

StrangerofSorts
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2016


2897 Comments


hah, a little. Strange to read all of this stuff here (especially the neo-colonial stuff in the Anohni thread). I guess people are gearing up for finals and it's all fresh.
I should dive into more comment sections - I'm doing the philosophy of race in hip-hop/ trip-hop/ grime/ rave ffs.

bloc
May 12th 2016


40349 Comments


This sounds pretty good, I'll check the whole thing

Digging: Heather B. - Takin' Mine

Brostep
Emeritus
May 12th 2016


4272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

yeah honestly the ANOHNI thread was surprisingly constructive and well-spoken - I kind of remember it being a rarity among these parts but the discussion was pretty interesting. here it's one of those things where I probably would have talked about various other aspects of the music, except I wrote the review fresh off of reading that Fader feature linked above and race was a pretty decently big part of that (or at least something that stuck out to me) and is also something I've been Doing Thinking about recently esp. re: SoundCloud hip-hop, so I figured I'd give that kind of discussion a shot

captaincrunch11
May 12th 2016


1405 Comments


Sounds right up my alley, will check out after work

/sigh

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
May 12th 2016


26217 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is pretty much everything I was expecting/hoping it to be.



I was kinda disappointed with Anderson .Paak's feature though, which was surprising as he almost always kills it. That track and his performance has grown on me a bit though.

Digging: Oh No - Ultimate Breaks & Beats

guitarded_chuck
May 12th 2016


11908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

DAMN SON WHERED YOU FIND THIS

ChoccyPhilly
May 12th 2016


11547 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sounds interesting, will listen eventually :]

Digging: Thomas Dybdahl - The Great Plains



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