Stop me if you’ve heard this producer tag before: if young Metro don’t trust you, I gon’ shoot you. Of course you have, because producer Metro Boomin’s tag has achieved meme–like fame with Boomin’s chart–topping hits like “Jumpman” by Drake and Future, and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” by Kanye West. Current hip–hop producers in the new wave of rap like Metro Boomin, MikeWillMadeIt, DJ Mustard, Just Blaze, and others love their production tags, so much so that some producers—such as Metro Boomin—have curated more than one tag to let you know that you’re listening to their beat. However, one producer would rather you recognize their beats by the sound itself, not through their tags—Kaytranada.
I’m not here to convince you that Kaytranada is the best hip–hop producer of all time—he’s got a long way to go before catching up to the likes of DJ Premier, Kanye West, and Dr. Dre. But he is undoubtedly the most unique and consistent producer of the past decade of hip–hop, and many people don’t even know what a “Kaytranada beat” sounds like, despite his sound being one of the most recognizable in the genre today once you know what to look for. The Canadian DJ has mastered the sound of glittery, frenetic, bass–bumping beats in his seven–year career as a producer. One of his most notable song productions, "All Night" by Chance the Rapper, encapsulates his production style well—an upbeat and rapid pace, feverish drums, and swinging trumpets at the end of the song. While I believe Chance’s lyrical performance on the song is underwhelming, Kaytranada's musical performance shines as a hectic dance anthem.
While the beat of "All Night" itself is a great starting point to exemplify his musical style, Kaytranada’s production on the song is hardly a standout in his own discography. Many of his productions are extraordinary, and while Chance is great, other artists are much better at rapping over his dazzling beats. For instance, Kaytranada has teamed up with artists like Anderson .Paak, GoldLink, Vic Mensa, and The Internet, all with better results than "All Night." Kaytranada's production on GoldLink’s "Sober Thoughts" and The Internet’s "Girl" are both examples of Kaytranada’s ability to make slow, hauntingly beautiful electronic beats, while his production on Vic Mensa’s "Wimme Nah" shows that he can excel at making glittery bangers, too.
As great as Kaytranada’s production is for other artists, he truly outdoes himself with his 2016 debut album, 99.9%. On the album, Kaytranada teams up with aforementioned artists like GoldLink, Anderson .Paak, and Vic Mensa, in addition to artists like BadBadNotGood, AlunaGeorge, and Little Dragon. Front–to–back, 99.9% is a masterpiece of dizzying club hits and swervy basslines. "Glowed Up" featuring Anderson .Paak is one of the especially strong tracks on the album. The song combines a thundering bass line with a peculiar background sample, a beat that almost sounds like it could be the theme music to a sci–fi alien movie. Meanwhile, Kaytranada’s song "One Too Many" achieves what Chance the Rapper’s "All Night" intended to do, providing a frantic–yet–groovy dance track, and "Driving Me Crazy" featuring Vic Mensa provided a strong single for the album.
Kaytranada’s production provides a breath of fresh, soulful air at a time when a lot of producers seem to mechanically manufacturing chart–topping hits. Producers such as Metro Boomin and MikeWillMadeIt, to their credit, have done an excellent job producing dark yet energetic and bumping beats for today’s top artists in hip–hop. However, their sounds, while consistent, are also oversaturated and almost formulaic. What Kaytranada offers is a different sort of formula—a sound that is separate from the pack in today’s world of 21 Savages and Kodak Blacks. One thing is for certain: once you recognize Kaytranada’s signature sound, you’ll understand why he doesn’t need a producer tag.