When you consider his internet celebrity and sizeable back catalog, Kaytranada’s debut LP 99.9% (XL Recordings) almost feels overdue. He’s been a household name on Soundcloud since his 2009 remix of Janet Jackson’s “If” and has continued to put out quality flips of songs both old and new since. His talent is undeniable, and his newest collection of songs is an opportunity to display it alongside a plethora of other artists.
In listening to 99.9%, some obvious influences float to the surface – its music is full of the synthetic jazz chords of the Neptunes and the drunken drums of J Dilla (former Dilla collaborator Kareem Riggins plays on “Bus Ride”). However, it never feels imitative. Kaytranada is one of many producers who can claim these artists as touchstones, but one of the few that can also lay claim to a distinctive sound. This distinctiveness is made all the more impressive given the diversity of samples and guests on 99.9%. You can safely bet that this will be the only album ever made with both Craig David and Little Dragon as featured artists, but Kaytranada’s production allows it to flow seamlessly. It’s a remarkably strong debut, and a timely release – tracks like “Glowed Up” and “Got it Good” are guaranteed to be rattling trunks all summer long.
The question Thursday night, however, was how well this new album would translate to a crowded venue. Kaytra rocks the club with his hip hop sets, and any remix of his is perfect driving or bedroom jamming material. But in the traditional DJ setup of screen, table, and pit, the rhythmic intricacies of 99.9% were at risk of getting lost on the moshing crowds.
Fortunately, while Kaytranada tracks may be more complex than the typical club fare, his set at Metropolis was evidence of their adaptability to a live setting. Kaytra modulated the energy of the sold out venue with ease, opening with some bangers like “Drive Me Crazy” that got the room bouncing. The set came in peaks and valleys; after a few high-energy tracks, Kaytra would slow the tempo with some mellow instrumentals that kept the crowd vibing. “Got it Good” and “One Too Many,” set against .gifs of pot leaves and waves crashing against the shoreline, went over especially well, lending a hazy, blissful atmosphere to the evening. Of course, just as the room was settling down, another high energy track, like his flip of Missy Elliott’s “Sock it to Me,” would bring the energy back up again.
The two-hour set closed with an extended play of Kaytra’s now-classic take on Janet Jackson’s “If,” picking up the crowd and setting it back down one last time. After a quick encore consisting of album cuts and a new Chance the Rapper song, he departed to rabid applause. If there was any doubt about Kaytranada’s appeal to a larger audience, it was unwarranted – it is now abundantly clear that he’s ready for the big time, and thankfully, he’s taken his idiosyncrasies with him.
Featured image by Ralph Haddad.