The changing landscape of Ca(ytra)nada

99.9% was Kaytranada’s debut album, but only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Canadian producer’s potential influence on the musical world.

It’s not far-fetched, from a foreigner’s perspective, to say that Canada is currently undergoing a cultural upheaval. The NHL Playoffs are without a Canadian for the first time in 46 years. The Toronto Raptors have made the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. Drake is in the middle of an assault on the charts after the release of Views, his latest blockbuster album, in doing so, introducing Hip-Hop to a bunch of new ears. The Weeknd has just descended the mountain of success that came his way following the eerie R n’B masterpiece that was The Beauty Behind The Madness, while Tory Lanez and PARTYNEXTDOOR begin to ascend their own. We all know very well what Justin Bieber has achieved.

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While all of this goes on, while Skepta launches his album in Toronto, while the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron and all, get stopped by customs (Such is the support for the Raptors), another cultural revolution is spawning from the one already taking place in front of us.

Kaytranada released his debut album 99.9% on the 6th of May, a week after Views. Even though Kaytra’s offering hasn’t reached the chart heights and sheer volume of fans that Drizzy’s piece of work did, 99.9%‘s importance in the wider scale of musical things may well outlast what was in some ways just another Drake album. Despite the 6 God’s maturation, Kaytranada has achieved something Drizzy has searched for his entire award-filled, money-making career,  sheer individuality. In fact, Kaytranada’s sound is so rare that it’s completely reasonable to relate it to that of Pharrell Williams’. His musical style is incomparable and unique that the only comparison left to make is one with the Happy producer, whose musical imprint is on par Mexico city’s Carbon footprint. Although Kaytra has yet to exhibit his vocal abilities on his own tracks, his productional savvy is as sonically visible on tracks like The Internet’s hit Girl as Pharrell’s is on Numbers which featured on Skepta’s grime bible, Konnichiwa. 

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Born in Port-Au-Prince in 1992, Kaytranada (Kevin Celestin) was raised in Montreal, Canada. He began DJing at 14 and producing shortly after that. Like a lot of Canadian artists many of his musical influences came from the states, as well as his Haitian roots. Despite America’s footprint in Kay’s music, it’s clear that he has honed in on developing his own style rather than reconfigurating old ones. On the ‘about’ section on his Facebook page, the genre reads ??? Even though he isn’t as mysterious to the media as his other Canadian counterparts, Kaytranada’s personality is maybe even more complex than his mind-boggling music. He is clearly shy in nature, but he still possesses a Pharrell-like audaciousness, a tongue-in-cheek factor that allows the guy to dance with robots in a music video without anyone questioning it, while still remaining silent and reserved enough not to be labelled cocky or over-zealous.

99.9% itself moves as seamlessly as his famed Boiler room set while each song still tangentially maintains its own credibility and relevancy among the sea of beat breaks, disco-vibes, vibrant house-inspired drops which come together at times to form a futuristic Samba vibe, all while still falling within the realm of Hip-Hop. It is the perfect culmination of Kaytra that we have come to know so far, but we all know that there is much more to him than the 18-track, uplifting project. Only Kaytranada could bring Craig David, Vic Mensa, Aluna George and GoldLink (To name but a few) together on an album without it seeming like a gimmick. 99.9% could get a crowd in the disco-obsessed 80s moving as easily as it gets hipsters and house-heads dancing today, it transcends time as it does genres, so even though Drake may be experiencing current relevancy, Kaytra’s beats and futuristic-looking-back sound will more than likely give people something to have more than One Dance to in the future.

Not only that, Kaytra has collaborated with his brother Louie P, a rapper, on a joint project entitled The Celestics, where the duo’s funky vibes criss-cross lyrically and instrumentally, showcasing the producer’s ability to maintain his individuality while catering his beats to the vocal capabilities of his brother.

Although it’s easy to revel in his individual musical brilliance, it’s even more jaw-dropping when you think of Kaytranada’s potential, given that he’s only 23 and managed to collaborate with the slew of big name artists that he has already. He came up along with a number of DJ/Producers through Soundcloud by remixing old soul and R n’B classics and later giving us his own offerings, yet neither his remixes nor his original work can be confidently placed into already-existing genres.

Kaytranada’s productional emergence isn’t the only one of note coming out of Canada or Montreal for that matter. His solo success and exposure has helped shine light on the likes of High Klassified (Whose interview with The Ankle Breaker can be read here) and Da-P, both of whom have heavier bass drops along with their own distinctive styles. ‘In terms of their style, even though they are in the same scene, they all had a time where they were searching for their own style/sound in order to differentiate themselves from the others. I find that the fact that they are having fun while doing it helped a lot, also the fact that they are their own competition and don’t compare themselves to others.’ Da-P’s manager told to me over email. He also explained their influences. ‘ it differs from one another, but music ran in each of their families which explains their influences; from their culture to video games to the music industry growing up (influenced by a lot of the pioneers).’

He went on to describe the scene’s development as a whole ‘They were all doing this as a hobby at first, until they were regrouped by the ArtBeat Montreal platform, which really was the start of the Montreal beat scene. It has benefited them a lot, since it has created a bond and friendship between them. It also helped people realize that there is a lot of talented individuals in the Montreal scene. It also created a certain interest outside of the city and opened doors for a lot of producers throughout Montreal.’

Kaytra’s success is only the first chapter in the book that is being written by Canadian producers, as well as underground rappers. The talent emerging from all sides of Canada in terms of sport and music should only act as motivation for all of those creative hopefuls looking to make a name for themselves, especially the large migrant population in the country. With OVO now making definitive waves in the Hip-Hop world due to the commercial success of their lyrical mastermind, Kaytranada is spear-heading a new wave of talented producers that may yet generate even more influential (Sound)waves amidst both Hip-Hop and Electronic genres, all while creating a genre to call their own.




2 thoughts on “The changing landscape of Ca(ytra)nada

  1. Pingback: THE BIG 50 | NZ

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