Kaytranada: 99.9%

999Summer has officially arrived. In the past week, some of the biggest artists in the world released new music: Beyonce, then Drake, Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Blake… and relative newcomer Kaytranada. Kaytranada is a name you should get to know fast. A frequent Major Lazer collaborator and astonishingly well-established producer, 99.9% is Kaytranada’s debut LP. A jazzy, electronic tour de force, Kaytranada and his onslaught of special guests combine for a trippy album that is perfect for summer patios and the sun-soaked hip-hop playlists of bars and clubs.

Ready for some more name dropping? Kaytranada’s first album features Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, The Internet’s Syd, Little Dragon, BADBADNOTGOOD, AlunaGeorge, Goldlink, Karriem Riggins, River Tiber, Phonte, Shay Lia, and Graig David. That’s right. This thing is stacked. And yet Kaytranada himself stays at the absolute forefront, blending his instrumental tracks with guest features in a way that really draws attention to the production. And Kaytranada’s production is fire: a varied mix of club, hip-hop, and electronic production with elements of jazz and soul and the occasional world sample.

…And funk. This album is incredibly funky and so so fresh. Check out “Lite Spots” coming in at track 13 for a little taste of Kaytranada’s musical sensibilities when it comes to sampling and production. This shit is almost better than Jamie xx (but what is that sample??). Kaytranada arrives on the scene sounding like he was made to make beats for people; as though he should be producing albums for rappers like Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, and Goldlink, all of which he’s brought in here. “Glowed Up” is .Paak’s best feature to date, and he’s done a lot of them, from Snakehips to Domo Genesis.

Vic Mensa’s feature on “Drive Me Crazy” is similarly some of his best work to date, as he only has a handful of singles out, the most notable being “U Mad (feat. Kanye West) and “Down On My Luck.” Goldlink and AlunaGeorge similarly shine on “Together,” and River Tiber and Karriem Riggins sound phenomenal on “Bus Ride,” probably the album’s jazziest and most experimental instrumental track. “Weight Off (feat. BADBADNOTGOOD)” is another fantastic jazzy interlude (and a rare but pleasant appearance of real instruments on an electronic album).

99.9% is a goldmine. This is just a taste of what Kaytranada’s got to offer here, from tracks like “One Too Many (feat. Phonte),” “You’re The One (feat. Syd),” Leave Me Alone (feat. Shay Lia),” and “Bullets” (feat. Little Dragon).” The features on this album showcase some of the best emerging and established artists in the hip-hop and electronic music communities. Kaytranada’s debut is a force to be reckoned with, and you should soon expect to hear these songs in hipster bars and clothing stores. This week’s barrage of new music has provided a perfect start to the summer, and Kaytranada is poised to rise up like the sun.

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Kaytranada: “Glowed Up” (feat. Anderson .Paak)

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Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up” begins with a spacey, alien-sounding intro before the beat comes in behind Anderson .Paak’s smooth, rambunctious flow. “I’m glowed up” he repeats through much of the song, perhaps referencing his recent string of guest appearances following his major-label debut Malibu. “Lately I’ve been glowed up… Feeling like the only one out here / Even if I slowed up / Got enough purp to last the whole damn night here” he sings over the track’s prominent big synth line, giving it an anthemic chorus. But then the track takes off in a new direction, and the bassy, jazzy, Flying Lotus-esque bridge/outro gives .Paak a chance to reflect on his fame and success. “Not just another name / Not just some wannabe,” he sings, and you have to agree that Anderson .Paak is pretty well here to stay – Malibu is still the best album of the year so far. But teaming up with Kaytranada here takes his talents to another level, backed by slick production and one of the most interesting beats of the year, recalling the production on Outkast’s ATLiens and updating it to rival that of Drake’s most recent work.

Anderson .Paak: Malibu

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Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly arguably opened a lot of doors for a number of experimental hip-hop albums. Some of the artists who worked on that album have gone on to release masterpieces of their own, such as Thundercat, and Kamasi Washington, with his three-hour experimental jazz album The Epic. Out of nowhere, it seems, comes Anderson .Paak’s Malibu, a soulful, jazzy, and beautifully breezy hip-hop record that at times sounds like Lamar’s TPAB, and at other times like something else entirely. Fusing hip-hop, jazz, rap, R&B, and soul, Malibu is a shining example of everything a hip-hop album can be in 2016.

It opens with “The Bird,” a jazzy, anderson-cover
head-bobbing intro that seems to channel D’Angelo’s soulful vocal style. “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance” further shows off .Paak’s vocal chops, and culminates in a spinning electronic bridge with a rapped-over hook. Then, on “The Waters (feat. BJ the Chicago Kid),” .Paak really gets started. The spoken word transitions and jazzy interludes on this album give it another connection to TPAB: this is a concept album, in the only real sense of that term in that its an album that asks to be digested in one sitting, the tracks coming where they do for a reason. .Paak, much like Lamar, is playing with form.

The Season | Carry Me” exemplifies this playfulness, and even includes a shout-out to Lamar in the line “‘Bout the year Drizzy and Cole dropped / Before K.Dot had it locked.” .Paak even begins to sound like Lamar in places where he’s straight rapping, but has a remarkable vocal range (the kind that made Lamar himself so versatile) and changes his style on almost every song. “Am I Wrong (feat. SchoolBoy Q)” is an early stand-out, and a celebration, with funky horns and a catchy chorus. This is an album to throw on for your next party: you can groove to it on a first listen, and it demands attention even when there’s a lot else going on.

And there’s a lot going on on this album. The middle-section has everything it needs to slip into the background, in the best possible way, because unlike the incredibly dense middle-section of To Pimp A Butterfly, this is easy listening, and yet at the same time it sounds like an amalgamation of all the best alt-hip hop albums to come out in the last year, from D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, to Miguel’s Wildheart, to Thundercat and Lamar. Of course, .Paak didn’t completely come out of nowhere: he was heavily featured on Dr. Dre’s Compton last year, as well as albums by The Game (featured here on “Room in Here“), and fellow California artist TOKiMONSTA.

.Paak is from Oxnard, not exactly straight outta Compton, but is another powerful voice that can speak to a particular kind of West Coast lifestyle. Malibu nods to the surf-skate culture .Paak grew up with; at the end of album highlight “Come Down,” the announcer-type spoken word outro says, “Before Vietnam, when boards were long and hair was short, the centre of the surfing world was a place called Malibu.” On “Come Down,” .Paak manages to sound both most like Lamar and most like himself: a King Kunta of sorts and a contentious player in the resurging world of West Coast hip hop.