99.9% makes for the perfect summer album

first_imgDuring my junior year of high school, my friend Billy, who is my guru for everything in the world of electronic music, showed me something called a boiler room on YouTube after a session of mixing music. He explained to me that these were invite-only shows where an artist, usually a DJ-producer hybrid, would show up and play a set of his or her music as well as music he or she personally loved for an extended period of time. In the particular boiler room that Billy showed me, a guy named Kaytranada was playing a show in Los Angeles. It was incredible. How a guy like this could have escaped me at the time was beyond me, but I instantly fell in love with his song selections in the show, which were a mix of original songs, remixes and old-school jams that I nerd out over every time I hear their opening riffs. Needless to say, Kaytranada stole my heart that night, and the more I watched his other boiler rooms and interviews, the more I got to like him.He had an unhealthy love for ’90s R&B, hip-hop and a neo-soul sound, much like I did. It was like someone had raided my Spotify playlists and meshed them all together to make something new and interesting. As a person, he’s very mellow and laid-back, especially around people he doesn’t know too well, but when the music is playing, he’s in his own world and he dives in head first. He’s quirky and hilarious, making up a lot of dance moves on the fly and just going along with whatever his body is doing with the music in the background playing. Much like an angsty suburban pre-teen discovering Linkin Park for the first time, I thought to myself, “Finally! Someone who understands me!” Fast forward to May of this year, during a trip back to my home state of Michigan. Before heading up to Ann Arbor for a weekend with some of my buddies, Spotify gives me a notification saying that Kaytranada has finally released a full-length album called 99.9%. Of course, this new album accompanied the entire car ride, and my high expectations were not only matched, but also exceeded. The best way I try to describe Kaytranada’s style to people who have never heard it before is say that it’s “boogie” music. It has many elements that old disco and R&B tunes had: the typical “four on the floor” sound, snares that crack and pop louder than a fresh bowl of Rice Krispies and catchy instrumentals all throughout the majority of his songs. In addition, his unique bass and synth sounds are guaranteed to make a beat that will have you moving in your seat. At times, it comes together in a way that is very difficult to put a label on, and for those songs, instead of trying to place it in a genre for people to relate to, I simply tell them they have to listen and judge for themselves. 99.9% doesn’t deviate at all from this sound, so I was more than happy to have Kaytranada doing what he does best on a studio album. Songs like “TRACK UNO,” “LITE SPOTS” and “BULLETS” radiate that trademark Kaytranada-boogie feel. I swear, the bass is so profound in these songs; you feel it in your entire body, making every nerve and blood cell bump along to the beat. Kaytranada also has tons of indie superstars make appearances on this album, some of which made me geek out in excitement when I saw their names. Craig David makes an appearance on this album. For those of you who don’t know, Craig David had one of the hottest R&B tracks back in the day called “Fill Me In,” and then, just like that, he was gone, becoming a forgotten remnant of my childhood like I Spy books. However, for the track “GOT IT GOOD,” David comes out of irrelevancy and shows that his vocals haven’t faded after all of these years, and the way he harmonizes over a grimy bass and uplifting synths makes a match made in heaven.Vic Mensa also makes an appearance on this album on the song “DRIVE ME CRAZY,” lending his syncopated rhyming to a Kaytranada beat that switches between minimalistic to angelic to make a great go-to song for people looking for a more alternative rap song, which rings true for many, since the song was released as a single before the album dropped. This album also introduced me to Anderson .Paak, who is finding a lot of success these days with a new album and an appearance on Schoolboy Q’s new album Blank Face LP. .Paak’s raspy voice and ability to glide over a track contrast perfectly with the beat on “GLOWED UP.” The bass and snare hit so hard on this album that when I first heard it in the car, the rearview mirror shook like Jell-O in an earthquake. This is one of the most interesting beats I’ve heard this year, since the bass and snare are aggressive with no relent, but the uplifting synths mellow the entire song out, creating a lovely yin and yang effect. For me, this was the perfect album to start my summer off right with. It had a perfect mix of songs that could move my feet without fail, but it also had a good blend of songs to just sit back and relax to. With the wind blowing through my hair and the sun beating down on my face, I thought back to when I first heard Kaytranada in a basement a couple of years ago, and I thought that nothing had changed that much. He was a role model then, and he still is. He’s someone who isn’t afraid to put him and his alternative music taste out there for people to form an opinion about, and he’s found success doing it. By sharing very similar music interests, it’s easy to see a small fraction of myself in Kaytranada and his special brand of weirdness. It’s easy to go along with the flow and play what the crowds want to hear, but Kaytranada plays what he wants to hear, and if the crowds don’t like it, tough. That kind of individuality is important as an artist, and to this day, I still struggle to find the middle ground of personal passion and pandering when it comes to my own creative endeavors. So, here’s to you, Kaytranada, and thank you for showing me that being weird isn’t what loses the interest of your fans; it’s not being authentic. Spencer Lee is a junior majoring in narrative studies.  His column, “Spencer’s Soapbox,” runs every Tuesday. He is also the chief copy editor of the Daily Trojan.last_img

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