KAYTRANADA – BUBBA REVIEW

As I stated in my review of the new Harry Styles album, it is not common for musicians to drop new albums during this time of year. For one, it would be safe to assume that people are not really actively consuming as much new music during the Holiday season, as most people are listening to Christmas music and focusing on family activities. Not many people are going to be looking forward to listening to an album that comes out the weekend before Christmas, as they probably will not have adequate time to listen to it until Christmas is over anyway. Kaytranada has never cared about what people want or expect him to do, though. This is pretty apparent from the random way that he releases music and the way he blends genres and musical styles so seamlessly. It actually sort of makes sense that Kaytranada would drop a full-length album out of nowhere in the middle of December, as nothing about his approach to music has been traditional. Kaytranada has made his name from combining underground house music beats with all sorts of retro and new versions of hip hop and R&B mixed in. Although he has been popular for years from all of the excellent remixes he has released, Bubba is actually technically his second album. If anyone wondered whether this super-producer would have a sophomore slump, they will be happy to know that is not the case with this record. Bubba really builds on all of the wonderful things that Kaytranada is known for, and it is the type of record to literally get everyone out on the dance floor. This album is just so fun and groovy and makes me want to party, and I am super cool with that.

Bubba starts out on a pretty low key note relative to what is probably expected of him. ‘DO IT’ is the type of track that makes it obvious that Kaytranada starts with the percussions when making music and builds from there; the way the drum patterns are layered on this song are so intricate and sick, and I dig that the faint nature of the melody makes you focus on the drums. As far as tracks that are going to make you gravitate towards the dance floor, ‘DO IT’ is not the song for that. It is, however, a song that really highlights how talented of a producer Kaytranada is. ‘2 the Music,’ featuring Iman Omari, has a cool Caribbean vibe to it; the drum pattern has an old school reggaeton feel to it, and it honestly sounds like something you would hear at the dancing area of a fete(weekly or monthly festival and night market that a lot of Caribbean islands have). This track is an awesome example of how simplicity can make a dance track great. Nothing about the melody or drums or vocals are particularly complicated, but the sounds are layered so well that the song sounds more complicated on first listen than it actually is. ‘GO, DJ,’ which feature SiR, brings it back to a sound that Kaytranada is known for; it feels sounds like a modern or even futuristic and glitchy version on a late 90s R&B dance track. I love how the instrumental does not drown out the rapping very much, as EDM music can sometimes too. My favorite thing about this song is the weird and jittery piano riff on this track. It sort of sounds like a mixture or a funky disco piano melody and the piano songs that play during the fight scenes of an anime, and it is so trippy and dope. ‘Gray Area,’ featuring Mick Jenkins, is definitely the weirdest moment on the album up to this point. It is highlighted by one of those weird old robotic beats that sort of reminds me of the beat for Prince’s Rasberry Beret. I really love the melody on this one; it is just so warm and fuzzy and is the type of melody that puts you in a good mood. I would say that it feels kind of weird to hear Mick Jenkins rapping about love in such a soft tone, but it feels oddly natural on this track. I guess Kaytranada can make anyone sound natural on any kind of instrumental with the right mix. After that weird and cool track, we jump right into another weird and cool one, the equally and robotic and trippy ‘Puff Lah.’ This song almost seems like it is meant to be an instrumental break that transitions into the next section of the album. The feeling of this song is a bit more hip hop than we have seen on the album from the instrumentals so far, and the melody has a bit of a Latin flair that leads into the next couple of songs very well. ‘Puff Lah’ may not be the most sophisticated or important song on this record, but it does fill its role pretty perfectly.

Considering how equally funky and unique their sounds are, one would probably think that a collaboration between Kali Uchis and Kaytranada would be pretty awesome, and as far as the song ‘10%’ goes, that assumption would be totally correct. This track has a funky sort of Latin vibe that Kali Uchis is known for; I love how her voice, man, it is just so trippy and strange. This song just straight up sounds like it would be played at a dance club in heaven; it is just so bright and luscious. And if ‘10%’ is the song you listen to in a dance club in Heaven, then ‘Need It,’ which features Masego, might be the dance club song that you would hear in a different place. This track is pretty short, but it certainly packs a punch. I love how fast the instrumentation builds; it is like a tidal wave of different sounds crashing against the beach. ‘Need It’ has got to be the first EDM song that I have heard that has a sitar(that Indian guitar thing) used as one of the main providers of the melody. After how intense the sounds are on the last track(compared to the rest of the album, I know that this album is pretty low key in the scheme of things), it feels good to go back to what Kaytranada is known for. ‘Taste,’ which features VanJess, honestly just literally sounds like a typical Kaytranada song to me. If someone asked me to play something that shows what people would expect from Kaytranada, this is a song that I could go with for sure. Although it really is not that exciting, I think it is a great buffer for the strange nature of the last few tracks. Kaytranada throws us right back into the weirdness with ‘Oh No,’ which features Estelle. This is probably the least danceable song so far, as the beat is just so glitchy and strange. This is another song where the build-up of the instrumental is super cool big and vibrant. It is like every time the chorus hits, there are multiple synths and vocal effects added to just make the song feel so large. ‘Oh No’ is one of the more intense and risky songs on this record for sure. I guess Kaytranada decided he needed to sandwich that risk in between some more typical sounds people would expect from him, as ‘What You Need,’ featuring Charlotte Day Wilson, has that funky disco-house vibe that people really love him for. ‘What You Need’ reminds me so much of the classic bop that is Kaytranada’s remix of ‘Waiting’ by Kelela. There is nothing very complicated or sophisticated about this one, but that is okay, because there are enough songs that are very sophisticated on this album anyway, and these typical ones serve as a good buffer.

Me no lie, me no lie. We had drinks all night. Put my phone on silent and I don’t know why. No, I couldn’t leave her. Shoulda said, “Bye, Felicia.” Must have been the tequila. I wish you had amnesia…

‘Vex Oh,’ which features Eight9fly, Ari PenSmith, and Goldlink, brings us back into that reggaeton world that Kaytranada seems to love so much. This is easily one of my favorite songs on the record; I just love how smooth it is and how well it flows. This track is a great example of how a little can go so far; if you listen to the melody, the synth pattern is actually very simple, but when it is paired with this beat and these vocals, it just sounds so big and grand. ‘Scared to Death’ is definitely one of the stranger and more trippy songs from this record; it honestly kind of sounds like Kaytranada just found a basic beat and melody he likes and just decided to have fun playing with the sounds in the background. Throughout the track, the instrumentation goes back and forth between a super trippy and synthy keyboard melody and a super funky guitar riff that sounds like something Jimi Hendrix would make.’’Freefall,’ featuring Durand Bernarr, is another track that sounds so much like a modern version of a disco song from the 70s. Making music with this style is the smartest thing that Kaytranada could do, and it makes sense that other artists are following this pattern. Disco music is literally known for making you want to dance, so why wouldn’t dance music producers try to use those elements as much as they can? ‘Culture,’ featuring Teedra Moses, brings us to a different era of funk music, as this song is such a 90s vibe to it. In fact, the beginning of the track really reminded me of ‘Push It’ by SaltnPeppa. ‘Culture’ has one of the brightest and biggest landscapes of any song from this record. It is just such a layered track, and nothing about it is simple. The vocals on this song are really pretty, and I love the way that they are used in the track. ‘Culture’ is a very complicated song, but it is not too jumbled or too intense.

If I had to pick another favorite track from this album, I would probably have to go with ‘The Worst in Me’ featuring Tinashe. Tinashe is having such a big year, with the release of her independent solo project and dope features like this. It is good to see her getting some of her due credit. I would say that this track has that sort of typical Kaytranada future-funk feeling to it as well. The difference between this one and others like it are Tinashe’s awesome performance(she kills it) and the weird sound effects sprinkled throughout the track. Usually sounds like this are pretty clean and simple, but this one has all sorts of weird sounds and noises popping up that give the track texture. ‘September 21’ is another weird and funky short of instrumental break. It is short and has no vocals and sort of feels out of place, but the vibe of the track is still pretty dope. It kind of sounds like it should be an instrumental for James Brown. I do not really know why he decided to use this song as the second to last on the album, but it is groovy and fun so I can not be that worked up about it. It makes sense that Kaytranada would save the most hectic and cluttered sounding track for last and that it would be the one featuring Pharrell. ‘Midsection’ sounds like a neo-futuristic version of classic 70s funk rock, and I am here for it, yall. If someone told me that this song actually some sort of remix of an unreleased track by Sly and the Family Stone or Chic, I really would not be surprised. Some aspects from this instrumental that I really dig are the percussion and the weird psychedelic bell noises sprinkled throughout the mix. The drum pattern is so layered and sounds so African and primal, and the strange bell noises give the song a futuristic flair that reminds you that this track is not from the 70s. Overall, ‘Midsection’ is an awesome way to end a super cool and unique album.

I would say that listening to Bubba would give anyone a pretty good idea of why Kaytranada is considered one of the best and most innovative dance music producers in the game today. It is pretty amazing how his music can seem so simple but actually be so complex. There are so many songs on this album that if you just listened to casually, you probably would not noticed how layered and texture they are, but that is just because Kaytranada puts these mixes together so smoothly. I love how he can use influence from any genre on any song and still make sure the root of the track has the dance-funk vibe of the whole album. When you listen to this record all the way through, it may be tough to actually notice how convoluted some of these tracks actually are. Honestly, that just shows how talented this guy is. So, thank you, Kaytranada, for screwing up my “Best Albums of the Year” list, because now I have a bunch of awesome new songs to dance to.

7.9/10

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