A pretty comprehensive showcase of Kaytranada’s skill on the boards
Kaytranada has been a mainstay in certain avant-garde rap circles for so long that it is kind of staggering that 99.9% is technically his debut album. Indeed the Canadian producer has released plenty of solo tunes, including a few EPs and a handful of collaborative projects (his work with Louie P as the Celestics is a particularly impressive one), but this is certainly the deepest dive into his space age, jazz-tinged sound that we’ve had in his career thus far.
Part instrumental record and part feature-heavy collaborative compilation, 99.9% includes a slew of guests, including several Kaytranada veterans. GoldLink, Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa and AlunaGeorge all appear on the record, which is a good thing because, while Kaytranada’s production is undeniably pleasing and polished, it can sometimes feel a bit stagnant without the added punch of a vocalist.
Of the solo tracks, the standout is “Weight Off,” his jazz-infused jam session with Canadian band BADBADNOTGOOD. Imbued with a thumping bass line and a jolt of live instrumentation, it is captivating enough to make listeners yearn for a longer collaboration between the two acts. Kaytranada’s synths fit perfectly into the band’s dusty, percussion-heavy groove.
One of the interesting discoveries on 99.9% is that Kaytranada’s shimmery, intergalactic production may actually work even better with rappers than singers. His collaborations with Phonte (“One Too Many”) and Syd (“You’re the One”) are two of the project’s major highlights. These two cuts are a bit more uptempo, and they feature more sonic experimentation from Kaytranada, who is a master of highs but often creates cuts that don’t quite balance the same on the low end. That’s not the case with “You’re the One,” which features a head nod inducing bass line that perfectly contrasts with Syd’s sweet, mysterious vocals.
Phonte’s falsetto gives “One Too Many” a distinctly ‘80s flare, and the squealing synths recall the flashing lights of the surreal night out that the lyrics are piecing together. The track is an undeniable blast, but it also does make listeners consider the toll of the non-stop party lifestyle.
That’s not to say that the hip-hop songs on 99.9% are bad, because when Kaytranada has chemistry with an MC it can certainly breed something special. “Drive Me Crazy” is more than a year old, but it still sounds fresh and fits perfectly in the context of the LP. Vic Mensa is an excellent complement to the gleaming, synth-centric beat, which encapsulates the record’s theme of the downsides of superficial excess. Meanwhile, “Glowed Up” is sonically similar to “Drive Me Crazy,” but replaces the latter’s paranoia with a sense of self-assured, California confidence courtesy of .Paak’s smooth, raspy vocals. Kaytranada and .Paak have collaborated previously on .Paak’s breakout record Malibu and the duo has clear chemistry.
Kaytranada’s niche style of production makes his music a bit of an inherently acquired taste, but “Together” is the closest thing to a radio-ready single present on 99.9%. AlunaGeorge graces the record with its strongest hook, and GoldLink sounds just as comfortable imparting his rapid-fire flow on Kaytranada’s production as he does frequent collaborator Louie Lastic. The track has a pleasing, uptempo bounce and the gender juxtaposition here works to great effect.
Ultimately, 99.9% is a pleasing, if a somewhat slight record, that’ll serve as a great primer for those who are unfamiliar with the talented producer. Diehards will enjoy it too and find that the mix of instrumental records and features provides a pretty comprehensive showcase of Kaytranada’s skill on the boards.