Transformed from awkward, art-loving school kid, to pioneering instrumental hip-hop producer, Montreal native Kaytranada is getting to grips with global success. Recently selling out his first international tour moments after tickets went on sale and now signed to XL Recordings, his hazy, next level dreams just pixelated into real-time luxury. Staying humble to his cause, continuing to kick it in the Montreal 'burbs that bore him, the 22-year-old Haitian-born producer's first foray into music was as part of a rap/DJ outfit alongside his brother, called Celestics. Mentored by his bruh from day dot, Kay recently brought his mother and father out on-stage to show them how crazy his world had become.
Laying the ground work to build his own empire—official part owner at Huh, What and Where Records—Kaytranada's every success easily obliterates any posed limitation. Directly representational of his laid-back, 'it is what is' attitude, the rhythms laid down on Kay's early beat tapes move slowly and purposefully, drenched in R&B licks travelling mesmerically through trill, sound warped tunnels. Taking notes from the master-like Fly Lo, personally commissioned to work with Mobb Deep and then Vic Mensa, plus producing for the best in new, up-and-coming female vocalists—Kaytranada fronts that fresh sound that hypebeast crowds hunger for. His every track feels inimitable and brand new. Music needs this man. Read on to learn why.
Interview by Milly McMahon (@MillyMcMahon)
Photography: Ash Kingston
When you were DJing aged 14, was that just you or was that part of the Celestics show?
It was just me. My brother was rapping at the time. I was just making beats with DJ software, and he just kept recording. We didn't even know how to use any of the studio stuff.
Has touring the world changed your sound? I guess seeing the whole context of cultures in a different perspective would change you as a person.
In a way, it did. The song l just put out, "Leave Me Alone", it's something different that I did. I don't think the person really changed, I just think I grew up a little bit. Travelling inspired me a lot to work on different stuff because I went around the world and saw how people react to music, and how the vibe is. I'm trying to do this for me and the people at the same time.
"Friday Night", your track with Riva Devito, it feels like a Kaytranada track. Layering her vocals perfectly on top of your instrumentals really works. How do you strike the balance between producing a track that represents you, but still accommodates an artist's sound independently?
The producing side is always a hard thing for me. I look at Flying Lotus and see producers dropping instrumentals and I think I should do it myself. I just try to be an artist for myself. That way, it's a lot easier.
What happened in your first meeting with Mobb Deep?
Even though they weren't all that talkative, it was real cool. They were nice guys. I showed them five beats and they were really into them. It was such an honour to be with Prodigy and Havoc; Prodigy was the only guy who was meant to be there, but Havoc just turned up so it was super cool.
Linking being young and successful, what do you make of Justin Bieber's break from clean-cut teen heartthrob, to fully tattooed hip-hop anarchist? Are you a lover or hater?
I heard Bieber's latest music, and I don't think it's bad at all. I would be down to do something in the studio with him… I can't judge Justin Bieber, because I don't know him.
Watching the way music now works as an industry insider, between the quick-fire fame and million-dollar deals—does that hype ever make you re-evaluate the kind of music you want to produce from a commercial perspective?
I think my music could be commercial, in a way, but I just don't think the industry's ready for that. Maybe it'll be a new wave; producers are looking for that sound, what every young producer is doing right now. If I got the chance, it could happen.
I really like your "At All" music video.
My friend, Martin, he did that video for me and it was one of the most fun days, ever! Being carried around by female muscle builders is pretty awesome [laughs].
It's a big thing for lads in the UK to be built. It's almost become part of their culture. Hench form is pretty prevalent right now—Jersey Shore stylee! Body shapes for males seem to be all about the buff gym type. Is that a trend within your circles?
That's all quite weird for us in Montreal. I mean, you mention Jersey Shore so we know what that is, but that trend separates social groups. If you're not built big, like part of that group, you would be viewed weirdly.
Are you into fitness and nutrition?
I try to be, but I love food too much [laughs]. Lately, I've been working out... I wish I could work out more, though. I’m going on tour soon, so it messes up the whole routine.
What are some of the best dishes you tasted throughout the world since you've been travelling?
Steamed rice with sweet and sour chicken, and chicken balls! I really love the Roscoes in LA. The chicken waffles there are, like, my dish. I had a good ass steak in Switzerland recently, too.
Have you worked out what you will be wearing on stage for the sold-out international tour.
I'm my own stylist. Always! I don't wanna hire someone to chose what I should wear. At the same time, I do always wanna wear some crazy clothes. When I get the budget, you might see something crazy.
Are you a big trainers guy?
Yeah, of course! I've got lots of Jordans and Vans. My brother is the biggest sneaker head, so he's taken over whatever choices I have [laughs]. He always picks the shoes and shows me the sneaker that I want.
What will you spend the rest of your day doing now?
I'm always home, doing nothing, making beats, and watching movies. Sometimes, I go out to the studio and eat at restaurants.