KAYTRANADA is on the rise, without question. Whether he’s working with groups like BadBadNotGood, remixing the Internet, or collaborating with artists such as Anderson .Paak and GoldLink. He has now expanded into working with more mainstream pop artists, like Ty Dolla $ign on this tape, as well as his remix of Shawn Mendes’ “Where Were You In the Morning?

Released on Nov. 30, 2018 by Louis Kevin Celestin (aka KAYTRANADA), the release features two songs. The former being “NOTHIN LIKE U,” the latter “CHANCES”, each accompanied with their respective instrumentals; also included is a third bonus instrumental, titled IT WAS MEANT 2 B. The release is coming off his critically acclaimed 2016 album “99.9%,” as well as the numerous remixes and instrumentals he releases on SoundCloud.

His abilities as a producer remain unique. His personal touches in using relatively simple patterns of synths and bass lines, layered atop percussive elements that reverberate throughout the body when you listen to him. From his snappy hi-hats to his thumping kicks to the bouncy 808s that make you dance, his use of repetition works well as a means of sonically building cohesive tracks that quickly registers as a KAYTRA beat once the ear has been exposed to his style. (The amount of times I have shown my friends a new release of his and they have immediately asked, “hey, is that KAYTRANADA?” is most likely in the high double digits, such as 87.)

His choices are consistent, his style is defined, and his grooves evoke a late 80s and early 90s R&B sound, akin to some of the elements that gave rise to Bad Boy Records. His use of the Maschine Mk2 allows for customization of his synths, which contributes to the unique flavor his music has.

In “NOTHIN LIKE U,” Ty Dolla $ign croons to a potential love interest about their rendezvous, asking them to “take your time baby, don’t rush it.” His vocals are impressive, but nothing out of the ordinary in regards to his lyrics. Not bad by any means, just fairly typical in terms of the oft-repeated phrases (“pull up on ya, know that I want, that I want ya” is becoming overdone at this point in pop music.) It gets a little old, Ty.

VVS and Dior flexes aren’t really associated with a KAYTRA beat, and for good reason. It seems out of place and takes me out of the sense of immersion I experience when listening to his music. I always enjoy the melodic aspects of Dolla’s performances, and he has great skill in his singing, so his lyrics don’t particularly grate on me, they just seem odd.

In “CHANCES,” KAYTRA uses the vocals of Shay Lia, an artist he has previously collaborated with on the track “LEAVE ME ALONE.”  “CHANCES” begins with a three-kick pattern, quickly followed by a snapping snare that punches through the songs mix like thorns on a rose, or some shit. Lia sings confidently, as the kick-snare pattern bounces behind her and the 808 rattles. More quality from Kaytranada as always.

His rhythms often change throughout a song, like in “IT WAS MEANT 2 B,” where the beat switch stretches and pulls the arpeggiating synth pattern like taffy. The bass line that echoes throughout is thick and soulful. Listening to it is like stepping into a dancehall club while trying to maintain a level of drunkenness that is publicly acceptable. Very very enjoyable.

Final Rating: 4/5

I enjoyed the project; it has few low points and consistently impressed with unique grooves and melodies Kaytranada brings to the table. One thing I’d want to see from him in the future is a gradual change to become less loop-driven, making some equally groovy melodies he is known for, but using unique off-kilter beats in the style of Knxwledge or J Dilla. Here’s to hoping more Kaytranada releases are in store for 2019 and beyond.

-Kevin Cross

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