I’ll never forget the first time I heard a Kaytranada-produced song. I was listening through a playlist put together by a member of a forum called “KanyeToThe” based off a specific DJ set — most of the songs were fine, but around the 12-minute mark, I was blown away when, “Nothing At All” blasted through my headphones. The slow, tumbling beat utilizes synths and a crawling bassline to set up a distant sample of a vocalist exclaiming, “You don’t mean nothing at all to me / ay” (note: I attempted to reach out to Kaytranada on Twitter to figure out who’s sampled on the song, but I didn’t get a response). The beat drop on the chorus instantly made me think of a cinematic scene of a slow-motion house party, with people drinking out of red cups and happily dancing underneath flickering strobe lights. I was stunned that an individual song by an artist, who I had never heard of could provide such vivid imagery, and I soon started Google-searching my way into more and more Kaytranada-produced songs.
I quickly discovered that Kaytranada excels in the remix game. Clearly a fan of 1990s and 2000s female R&B, his upbeat production breathes life into forgotten tracks, such as Janet Jackson’s “If”, Jill Scott’s “It’s Love,” Mary J Blige’s “I Can Love You”, and Latrelle’s “House Party”. On “House Party” specifically, Kaytranada transforms a somber, Neptunes-produced ballad, into a modern upbeat disco track that could actually be played at a house party. This trend continues on “I Can Love You”.Tthe original Mary J Blige track, while catchy, is slower and laid back, but Kaytranada is able to turn it into a four-on-the-floor dance beat. His modernization of older R&B songs showcases his ability to walk the fine line between paying homage and “biting”, which is generally the most difficult hump for a sample-based producer to get over.
While Kaytranada’s remixes are what allowed him to put his foot in the door of the music industry, his original productions are equally (if not more) impressive pieces of work. In May of 2016, he released his debut album titled 99.9%, which included an eclectic variety of featured pop, hip-hop, jazz, and electronic artists; such as Craig David, AlunaGeorge, GoldLink, BADBADNOTGOOD, Vic Mensa, Anderson Paak, and Syd. The fact that he was able to fit such a wide range of artists across different genres into one cohesive project reflects his impressive chops as a producer, and it additionally shows how his talents aren’t confined to his popular remixes. Kaytranada’s remixes showed that he could produce dance music, while 99.9% gave the world a taste of everything else he had to offer as a more nuanced musician.
Where Kaytranada shines the brightest, though, is in his tracks produced for other artists. Here, we see how he’s able to craft excellent songs for a spanning variety of artists while still maintaining a sound that is undeniably his own, and some of his work in the past year perfectly reflects these talents. On “Alexys”, we hear Freddie Gibbs rap over a dark and daunting looped beat about what life was like growing up in the streets of Gary, Indiana. On “Telling The Truth”, Mary J. Blige seductively sings of infidelities over a beat that somehow manages to sound both playful and intense (side note: how many times in history has a producer remixed an artist and then later created an original beat for the same artist, as Kaytranada did for Mary J Blige?). Chance the Rapper sounds like an ‘80s Chicago house artist on “All Night”, a standout track off of the critically acclaimed Coloring Book mixtape where Chance raps about how he just wants to “juke all night” instead of worrying about being asked for favors due to his newfound fame — Kaytranada’s patented modern-disco sound allows him to air his grievances. Nick Murphy, an alternative singer / songwriter, glides over a mechanical budding beat that sounds like a Transformer slowly coming to life on the Kaytranada-produced track “Your Time”. I’m convinced that you could ask Kaytranada to produce any sort of song for any sort of artist, and he would figure out a way to make it work musically.
All in all, Kaytranada’s spanning production discography as an artist is spectacular, especially when you consider that he’s a mere 24 years of age. As seen through his work, his ability to jump between different genres and song structures allows him to create music with a much wider variety of artists than most other producers. It’s been a long time “Nothing At All” on that forum, but from the moment I heard Kaytranada’s distinctive sound, I knew he was destined for greatness in the music industry. I’m just glad other people are finally catching on.