Haitian producer Kaytranada’s debut LP 99.9% is one of the most recent projects to come out of this popular wave of pop producer albums featuring loads upon loads of guest vocalists, re-surged into the spotlight by artists like Mark Ronson and Disclosure. I like the trend. I think it’s a good thing for radio pop, it forcibly thrusts the music into the spotlight, as opposed to the usual “make some music to accompany our bran– *cough* singer” approach. There are still a lot of kinks that these producers have yet to work out though, and while there are several gold nuggets on 99.9%, you’re going to have to do some mining.
Kaytranada makes it easy on the listener to start: the first 2 tracks are fantastic. “Track Uno” is one of only three tracks without a guest, and it’s Kaytranada at his beat making finest, and “Bus Ride” is a spacey boom bap collaborative instrumental with Karriem Riggins and River Tiber that J Dilla would’ve been proud of.
Then we have “the hits” in the next 3 songs. “Got It Good” is a very well executed 90s throwback R&B slow jam, the best song here that you might hear on mainstream radio. The AlunaGeorge collab “Together” works surprising well considering my dislike for the group, and is a good example of a producer being able to reign in a vocalist to fit their style. “Drive Me Crazy” kinda sucks. Vic falls flat and the trap influences feel forced.
From this point on, the issues with the album, and so many others like it, become clear. One is length. 99.9% clocks in at 15 tracks and nearly a full hour, far too long for an album with as few original ideas as this. That leads to another problem: there’s variety here, but much of it treads the ground of other producers. Kaytranada will hop from idea to idea, but doesn’t demonstrate enough knowledge of each one to make them all his own. This makes the album sound unfocused. Lastly, Kaytranada is, for the most part, far more successful when he either works alone or collaborates with other producers, instead of forcing himself to make a beat a pop artist can sing to. “Glowed Up” (with Anderson Paak) and “Leave Me Alone” (with Shay Lia) are rousing successes, but aside from that, Kaytranada’s pure instrumentals flourish while his sing songs fall flat.
99.9% is worth a listen, and worth plundering for its gold, but if you try to take in all 15 tracks in one sitting, you’ll likely find your mind drifting away as Kaytranda’s does.
Music video for “Glowed Up”: