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Album Review: Kaytranada's 'BUBBA'

Genre-merging Canadian producer Kaytranada has finally dropped his sophomore album ‘BUBBA’, 3 years after his Polaris Music Prize winning ’99.9%’ back in 2016. The album plays beautifully from beginning to end with each track seamlessly weaving into the next, taking us on a trippy journey around the dancefloor. The 17-track album is embellished with features from Pharrell, Teedra Moses, Mick Jenkins and many more, adding to Kaytranada’s impressive portfolio of collaborations.

The album introduces itself with ‘DO IT’, a classic Kaytra beat trademarked with his signature custom-made synths and drums. Nothing wild, he’s reminding us of what we’ve been missing and familiarising us with the housey vibes that feature across the project. ‘2 The Music’ featuring fellow producer and singer Iman Omari has us edging towards the dancefloor and ‘Go DJ’ featuring SiR has us rooting for the DJ once we’re there. On ‘Gray Area’, we’re presented with rapper Mick Jenkins on the vocals. We’ve never heard him sing… and we never imagined it would be so groovy. This track is a stand-out from the whole album - Kaytra’s pushing the boundaries with his collaborators and it works. ‘10%’ is dreamy and Kali Uchis’ angelic vocals made this track an obvious choice for the first single of the album.

The album continues on a tour through Masego, Estelle, GoldLink and Durand Bernarr features before landing on RnB superstar Teedra Moses. Considering the success of Kaytra’s ‘Be Your Girl’ remix, ‘Culture’ was bound to be a banging RnB tune. September 21 sounded like the perfect Kaytra outro instrumental, but he closed the album with the most anticipated feature of the album – ‘Midsection’ featuring Pharrell. Pharrell and Kaytranada - a fated recipe for a groovy smoothie. Even if the lyrics are weird, it got me dancing. From beginning to end, the album is packed with euphoric beats accompanied by perfectly paired vocals.

Critics question whether Kaytra’s success would hold up in the absence of features. I think Kaytra is incredibly creative and selective in his use of features – they’re never overused. The vocals don’t detract from the beat, they perfectly season the soup of peng drum patterns, gritty basslines and synths. In ‘BUBBA’, we see Kaytra pushing the artistic abilities of his features to the limits, allowing us to see them in a new light – particularly Masego and Mick Jenkins. Fans were worried that Kaytranada’s move to major record label RCA would be noticeable in the album, but they clearly had nothing to worry about. Every track is stamped with Kaytra’s trademark sound, which has only been solidified with the release of ‘BUBBA’.

If ‘99.9%’ suggested an incompleteness in Kaytra’s abilities as a beatsmith, then the release of ‘BUBBA’ has taken him all the way. We see Kaytra refine his signature sound and put together a more focussed body of work than previously. ‘99.9%’ was about Kaytra showing the breadth of genres he was capable of dipping into and establishing himself as an artist in his own right – not just a remixer or DJ. In ‘BUBBA’, Kaytra’s not trying to prove anything. He’s already on the map, within a very unsaturated community. Few producers have attempted to blend hip hop, house, funk, soul and RnB into one cohesive project – but Kaytranada consistently makes it look like light work.

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